The FBI has questioned former Sputnik reporter Andrew Feinberg as part of an investigation into allegations that Sputnik is acting as an agency of foreign political propaganda, Yahoo News reported last week.
If the FBI decides that the agency is spreading propaganda, it would have to register with the US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a statute dating back to 1938 which was originally passed in response to pro-Nazi propaganda. It requires so-called "agents" to disclose their relationships with foreign entities and the sources of their funding.
Eric Zuesse, an American investigative historian, told Radio Sputnik that the investigation into Sputnik comes at a time when the owners of large news media are trying to crack down on alternative points of view.
"It occurs during a period when there is greatly intensifying control, not really so much by the US government as the billionaires who control the US government and who also control the nation's news media."
Journalists in the US are under pressure to tow a political line that supports US government policy, Zuesse explained.
The investigation into Sputnik is a "very direct threat" to freedom of speech, "but in the US, the engine that is involved here is much, much bigger than anything as direct as that."
"What we're talking about is a very broad program which certainly includes the major news media, almost all of the alternative news media in the West, also. That's very strongly the case in the US, it's pervasive, it's like an octopus."
Zuesse said that "American journalists are propaganda agents," who push the agenda of the owners of their newssheets.
"Basically those are the people who control each of the major international organizations. So, people's jobs are on the line and they have to be propagandists if they are to be successful in the business."
"When you start presuming that foreign journalists are different in this regard than domestic US journalists are, then I think that that is really rather absurd because it's a presumption that American journalism is not propagandistic, but foreign journalism is," Zuesse said.
"Look at all the lies leading up to the invasion of 2003, it's just incredible. And of course, America's invasion of Syria is of the same ilk, it's just done a different way, and the invasion of Libya in 2011. It's all part and parcel of the same empire, really."
Sputnik is not the only Russian news network to receive the attention of the FBI and the US Department of Justice.
On Monday, RT reported that the company that supplies all services for RT America channel, including TV production and operations, in the US, has received a letter from the US Department of Justice claiming that the company is obligated to register under FARA due to the work it does for RT.
Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan slammed the FBI interrogation of Sputnik's ex-employee and said that Russia will respond if an investigation is launched.
"There is no doubt that Russia will respond to the FBI investigation in the same way and will check the work of American journalists in Moscow. It's disgusting. Freedom of speech is turning in its grave. It was killed by those who created it," Simonyan told RIA Novosti.