RFE/RL President Thomas Kent was interviewed on November 15 by the "Current Time America" program about legislation currently winding through the Russian parliament that would authorize the government to designate media outlets receiving funding from abroad as "foreign agents."
In his statement, given in Russian, Kent said, "As for this law, it is still a proposal at this time, it hasn’t been approved by both chambers of parliament, it hasn’t been signed by the President, we do not know how the Ministry of Justice will use this law in the context of our work. Therefore, we have no comment on the proposal.
"We can say, in the general context of our work -- American mass media operating in Russia do not have access to cable television, we do not have radio frequencies, while Russian mass media in the U.S. are able to distribute their programs on American cable television and Sputnik has its radio frequency in Washington. This means that, at this time, there is no equivalency."
The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma approved the amendments -- which Amnesty International said would deal a "serious blow" to media freedom in Russia and Reporters Without Borders said would "open the way to selective, arbitrary and highly political application" -- in the third and final reading on November 15.
Within hours of the measure's passage, the Russian Justice Ministry sent warnings to at least five Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) news services. The letters did not specify what potential restrictions they could face, but lawmakers have said designated media could be subjected to detailed financial reporting requirements and required to label published material as coming from a foreign agent.