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The Duma moves forward with the proposed law banning foreign media

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MOSCOW (AP) The lower house of the Russian parliament on Wednesday approved the second critical reading of a proposed law that would allow the banning of foreign news media in response to other countries taking action against Russian news media.

The proposal has yet to pass a third reading in the Duma and secure the approval of the upper house before it goes to President Vladimir Putin to be signed into law. But the approval of the Duma in the second reading, when a proposal can still undergo substantial changes, almost always provides for the adoption of a law.

Russia has repeatedly complained in recent months that Western countries were improperly restricting Russian media by banning them from operating or denying visas to their journalists. In early June, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova summoned representatives of the US media, including the Associated Press, to warn that they could be denied visa renewal and accreditation.

The draft law also requires the permission of the Prosecutor General of Russia to cancel the registration of media outlets for disseminating illegal, dangerous, publicly unreliable information or information expressing a clear lack of respect for society, the state, the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as aiming to discredit the Russian armed forces, the state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

Many foreign news organizations suspended or restricted their operations in Russia following the passage in March of a law requiring up to 15 years in prison for reports seen as discrediting the Russian military.

The Foreign Ministry in May ordered the closure of the Moscow office of the state-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in response to Canada’s ban on RT, a Russian state-controlled broadcaster.

In February, while Russia was building troops along the border with Ukraine, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle was ordered to close in Moscow after Germany stopped broadcasting RT in German.

Before the vote in the second reading, Vladimir Solovev, head of the Union of Russian Journalists, told the drafting commission that the move was justified by an “unprecedented information war in history against Russia.”

Russia has insisted on suppressing independent journalism in recent years. Following the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, many major independent news outlets shut down or suspended operations. They included the Ekho Moskvy radio station and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, whose editor, Dmitry Muratov, was last year’s co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

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