Russian parliament green-lights closure of ‘unfriendly’ Western news bureaus

Russia’s parliament passed a bill Tuesday allowing authorities to close the news bureaus of Western countries that have been “unfriendly” to Russian media.

The draft law, which lawmakers argued was a “symmetrical response” to moves by Western nations to shutter Russian outlets, would allow Moscow’s prosecutor general to end the registration or license of any media from these countries that share “illegal, dangerous” or “unreliable publicly significant information.”

Journalists from any media deemed to be in breach of this law would have their accreditation withdrawn, meaning they would be barred from attending meetings organized by state agencies and requesting official information. Working without a permit means they may also risk steep fines.

After passing the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the bill still needs to be voted on by the the country’s upper house, the Federation Council, and be signed by President Vladimir Putin before entering into law.

EU countries suspended the broadcasting rights of the Kremlin-backed RT and Sputnik as part of a wider sanctions package introduced by the bloc in early March after Russia launched its brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Many Western media outlets have already pulled employees out of Russia or suspended their operations out of concerns for the safety of staff, including Bloomberg and CNN International. Others, including AFP, still have active bureaus in the country.

Almost every independent Russian media outlet has been forced to close or suspend operations after Moscow passed draconian laws criminalizing the distribution of “false information” about Russian state activities abroad, including the war in Ukraine. A breach of this law, first passed in March, can carry a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.