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Fears as Russian MPs consider foreign agent tag for bloggers, journalists

Fears as Russian MPs consider foreign agent tag for bloggers, journalists

Moscow: Rights activists warned Tuesday of greater curbs on media and online freedom in Russia ahead of a vote on a controversial bill that could lead bloggers and independent journalists to be labelled "foreign agents".

Lawmakers want to broaden existing legislation that forces foreign-funded media and NGOs to describe themselves as "foreign agents" to include individuals.

Foreign agents are required to register with the justice ministry, label the material they publish and submit much more detailed paperwork or face fines.

Critics said this would affect bloggers and even ordinary people posting on social media, although some ruling party lawmakers denied this.

Amnesty International in a joint statement with other rights groups, including Journalists Without Borders, decried it as "a further step to restrict free and independent media" and "a strong tool to silence opposition voices".

The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, was scheduled to discuss the amendments in the crucial second reading on Tuesday afternoon. Authors say the bill is intended to "perfect" existing legislation on "foreign agents" that already covers NGOs and media organisations.

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