November 16, 2017 / 6:57 PM / a year ago

OSCE watchdog slams Unites States, Russia for "foreign agent" media laws

VIENNA, Nov 16 (Reuters) - The OSCE’s media watchdog said on Thursday moves by the United States and Russia to force some foreign media to register as “foreign agents” were unacceptable and dangerous.

Russia’s lower house of parliament this week approved a law allowing Moscow to force foreign media to describe news they provide to Russians as the work of “foreign agents” and to disclose their funding sources.

Earlier on Thursday Russia named nine U.S. government-sponsored news outlets likely to be labelled “foreign agents”.

U.S. intelligence officials accuse the Kremlin of using Russian media organisations it finances to influence U.S. voters. Washington has required Russian state broadcaster RT to register a U.S.-based affiliate company as a “foreign agent”.

“Branding media entities as ‘foreign agents’ is a dangerous practice, as it can narrow the space for freedom of the media,” said Harlem Desir, media freedom chief of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The OSCE, which also oversees election monitoring, is one of the few security forums which brings Russia and the United States to the same table. It has a 700-strong observer mission monitoring the conflict in Ukraine.

“I call on both the Unites States and the Russian Federation to reconsider and refrain from requiring media entities to register as ‘foreign agents’”, Desir said in a statement, labelling both countries’ moves as “not acceptable”.

The Kremlin denies meddling in the U.S. election and has said the restrictions on Russian broadcasters in the United States amount to an attack on free speech. The new media law in Russia is retaliation, it says. (Reporting by Shadia Nasralla; editing by Andrew Roche)

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