Russia to extend media controls to keep out foreigners

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Image source, AFP
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The state and powerful oligarchs dominate media ownership in Russia

A bill to restrict foreign ownership in Russia's media will soon go before the parliament, which is dominated by MPs loyal to President Vladimir Putin.

If made law, the measure will put a 20% ceiling on any foreign stakes in Russian media, including those held indirectly through Russian partners.

Russia's main media outlets are state-owned or controlled by loyal oligarchs.

But top Putin ally Sergei Zheleznyak said Russia was facing "an information war unleashed against the country".

Russian TV news has accused the Ukrainian government of provoking clashes in eastern Ukraine through acts of aggression, including indiscriminate shelling of civilians.

The Kiev government blames pro-Russian separatists for the violence, and says Russia has fomented it by supplying soldiers and heavy weapons to the rebels.

The media bill is to go before Duma (lower house) deputies on 23 September, Itar-Tass news agency reports.

The restrictions would apply to magazines and internet publications as well as newspapers and broadcast media.

The bill is highly likely to become law as it was proposed by MPs who usually support the pro-Kremlin group United Russia.

BBC Monitoring reports that foreigners directly own stakes in some Russian mainstream media:

  • The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Finnish media holding group Sanoma co-own the liberal business daily Vedomosti, with each having an equal share
  • Finland's Sanoma also owns the Russian magazine group Fashion Press, which publishes the Russian versions of Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping (Domashniy Ochag)
  • A Russian subsidiary of Germany's Axel Springer - which own Bild and Die Welt - publishes the Russian version of Forbes business journal and website
  • Hearst Corporation is described as the "partner" (via a Cyprus-registered company) of Hearst Shkulev Media, which publishes the Russian versions of magazines Elle, Marie Claire, Psychologies, Maxim
  • Swedish company Modern Times co-owns a commercial TV channel, STS, with Russian groups Itera and National Media Group.

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