All 407 of the MPs present voted in favor of the relevant amendments to the Russian Administrative Code in the first reading during a parliament session on Wednesday. The proposal to increase the fines came in late 2017 from the head the legislative committee at the Upper House of Parliament, Pavel Krasheninnikov, and his Lower House counterpart, Andrey Klishas.
According to the legislation, for violating the “rules of procedure of a foreign media outlet, acting as a foreign agent, and (or) a Russian legal entity established by it,” the fine is set at 10,000 rubles (around $177) – for citizens; 50,000 rubles (around $886) – for officials and 500,000 rubles ($8,863) – for legal entities.
There will be an increase in financial sanctions for a second violation, but the toughest fines will be introduced against outlets guilty of “gross violations” – failing to comply with the foreign agent law more than twice during the course of a year. In this case, people may face a fine of 150,000 rubles (around $2,659) or a 15-day administrative arrest, while an official would have to pay 200,000 rubles (around $3,545). The punishment for “gross violations” by legal entities stands at 5 million (around $88,634).
The fines may be introduced against outlets that violate the procedure for registering as a foreign agent or commit other breaches of the law, a Duma source told RBC. “The bloggers, which would simply make a repost, won’t be affected,” he said.
The foreign agent law and concurrent legislation were introduced in Russia in response to a crackdown on Russian media in the US, which saw RT and Sputnik news agency registered as foreign agents in America last year.
In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that allows the authorities to label certain media organizations operating in Russia as ‘foreign agents.’ Nine outlets, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, were registered as such by Russia’s Ministry of Justice.