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Russian MPs back bill to limit foreign media ownership

September 25, 2014

Russian lawmakers on Tuesday gave overwhelming backing to a bill that, if passed, would limit foreign ownerwhip in Russian media to 20 percent — impacting several media critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Duma lower house, which passed the first of what will be three readings of the bill with only one dissenting vote, hailed the mooted restriction as a way of defending Russia in a new “Cold War”.

“Unfortunately the Cold War, the information war waged against Russia, is dictating certain laws and actions,” lawmaker Vadim Dengin declared as he presented the initiative.

He alleged that Western media organisations were buying up Russian papers in order to sway Russians, particularly the younger generation, and said that “security should come first, markets second”.

The bill, which would come into force in 2016 if passed, prohibits media outlets being funded or run by foreign groups or individuals, including Russians with dual nationality, and puts a 20-percent cap on foreign ownerwhip.

Some media investors blasted the bill as an attempt to quash dissenting voices.

“The main targets of the law on limiting foreign participation in the media are (business daily) Vedomosti and Forbes,” tweeted Alexander Vinokurov, an investor in Russian independent media including the channel TV Rain.

Forbes magazine’s Russian edition is published by German house Axel Springer.

Vedomosti is part of Finland’s Sanoma Independent Media, along with many glossy magazines and the English-language newspaper The Moscow Times.

“New draft media law would put future of my favorite Moscow Times on the line,” its Dutch founder Derk Sauer wrote on Twitter when the bill was first mentioned in the media last week.

The largest media organisations in Russia are owned by the state or controlled by Putin associates. The Kremlin is currently locked in a showdown with the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.