Vladimir Putin signs off on Russian 'foreign agents' media law

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The rivalry between Russia and the US continues to deepen as the USA alleges that Russian efforts swayed the election while Russia claims infringement of free speech.

In a tit-for-tat move to a demand made by the U.S.to a Kremlin-funded TV channel, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill allowing Russia to register global media outlets as foreign agents.

RFE/RL was among several media outlets that Russian officials warned could be labeled a foreign agent, a list that also included the Voice of America (VOA), CNN, and Germany's worldwide broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

While the U.S. Justice Department's requirement for RT to register as a foreign agent is largely formal, requiring little more than registering and maintaining accurate records, Russia's icy leader has taken offence and is unamused. It also forces news platforms like Reuters to provide the Russian government with funding sources.

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The Kremlin has repeatedly denied meddling in the election and said the restrictions on Russian broadcasters in the United States are an attack on free speech.

The Russian law classing worldwide media organisations operating in the country as "foreign agents" is a "threat to free and independent media", the European Union said on Sunday. "We congratulate American freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it", Simonyan said Monday on Twitter shortly after the DOJ applied pressure.

The Russian Justice Ministry last week published a list of nine USA -backed news outlets that it said could be affected by the changes. In September - amid growing political pressure in Washington to do more in response to Russia's election-meddling - the USA told RT it would need to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1938 law passed to limit the reach of pro-Nazi propaganda in America. Moscow used anti-spying spying legislation earlier this month to justify roping environmental groups under a similar designation.

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