The Russian parliament voted nearly unanimously in favor of a bill that would cap foreign ownership of Russian media outlets at 20 percent. Previously, the limit had been set at 50 percent and did not apply to print media, though the new restrictions will. This bill would either shut down or force the sale of major publications from business newspapers to fashion magazines. The Financial Times reports:
The planned legislation comes as Moscow is stepping up attempts to close itself off from the west and hit back against sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis. An aggressive propaganda campaign waged by state television has whipped up nationalist sentiment and left both the public and the political elite angry at foreign media’s contrasting version of the conflict.The proposal was supported by president Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party and approved in first reading with only one opposing vote, suggesting that it has strong chances of being passed in final reading and signed into law by Mr Putin.“In fact, this writes Russian raider attacks into law – it will mean a raft of forced sales,” said one foreign executive. “Kremlin conservatives are using anti-foreign sentiment created by Moscow’s stand-off with the west over Ukraine to consolidate the grip of select companions of Mr Putin on the media industry.”The initiative comes on the heels of raids against foreign businesses such as McDonald’s and Ikea. It also goes hand in hand with Kremlin plans to control the internet more tightly. Next week, Russia’s Security Council is to discuss ways to separate the country’s internet from the world wide web, plans the Kremlin calls protection against US attacks on the Russian web but which Russian internet advocates criticise as a crackdown.
Putin has been very successful at garnering public support for his illiberal agendas by claiming he is protecting Russia from external enemies that aim to humiliate it. Indeed, he equated liberals in Russia with foreign influences long before the Ukraine crisis. The strategy is hardly new, but it’s certainly paying off now—Putin’s approval rating is around 70 percent.