LONDON (Reuters) - Russia’s top prosecutor will be empowered to shut down media from countries that ban or restrict Russian news organisations under a law passed by the lower house of parliament on Thursday.
The bill - following bans by some Western governments on Russian media they regard as mouthpieces for President Vladimir Putin and cheerleaders for his war in Ukraine - creates a legal basis for Moscow to retaliate against the media of any country that restricts the activity of Russian journalists.
Under the bill, such media will lose their accreditation and be banned from operating in Russia or distributing content there. These measures would only be lifted when the country in question allows Russian media to work without restrictions.
"This law is very important. We are creating an instrument for symmetrical response measures in the event of liquidation of our media abroad," said lawmaker Sergei Boyarsky, the bill's co-author.
The move by the lower house, the State Duma, follows threats by Russia to strip U.S. news organisations of their accreditation in retaliation for alleged harassment of Russian reporters in the United States and the withdrawal of broadcasting licences for Russian channels there.
The law - which must be reviewed by the upper house and signed by Putin - gives the Prosecutor General the right to suspend the accreditation or broadcasting licence of foreign media accused of disseminating "inaccurate information" about the Russian armed forces.
The prosecutor will also be able to block websites for "repeated dissemination of false information", with blocks to be immediately enforced by internet providers.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Gareth Jones)