Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation to enable authorities to label individuals as foreign agents. Authorities had previously been able to force entities implicated in serving the interests of a foreign power to register as a foreign agent or face closure. The Kremlin said in a statement on Monday that the legislation was amended to allow individuals to be declared foreign agents.
It said that the measure is to target individuals who disseminate media materials.
However, it did not specify how individuals who fail to comply would be punished.
Critics, including rights activist group Human Rights Watch, have condemned the law as the government further clamping down on a domestic media environment already dominated by the state.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that “these new amendments make the foreign agents legislation, which already violates international standards on freedom of expression and association, unjustifiably tough.
“It will also become a strong tool to silence opposition voices. Bloggers have an important role in informing public opinion in Russia and this is an attempt to control this inconvenient source of information.’’
Russian officials have defended the law as akin to legislation in other countries, such as the U.S.
In October, Russian national Maria Butina, imprisoned in the U.S. for conspiracy to act as a foreign agent, was deported to Russia.