12:33 GMT27 February 2021
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    As RT and Sputnik have come under intense scrutiny in the United States with the US Department of Justice asking a RT contractor in the United States to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and the FBI investigating Sputnik, the Kremlin has commented on the issue.

    The Kremlin spokesman said that Moscow is not ruling out response measures if Russian media outlets in the United States will be further oppressed.

    Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that he hopes that the oppression of RT and Sputnik in the United States would not go unnoticed, including by international watchdogs.

    A number of Russian media outlets in a number of Western countries, first of all in the US, face "unprecedented pressure" in violation of the principle of the freedom of speech.

    "In our opinion, this is in violation of the principle of freedom of speech, freedom of the work of the media. We hope that such an oppression of our media, in this case I'm talking about RT and Sputnik, won't go unnoticed by relevant international organizations. Undoubtedly, in case of further oppression, further violation of our media outlets' right to unhampered activity, we cannot rule out actions that will be carried out based on the principle of reciprocity," Peskov said.

    When asked of a possible Russian response to US' plans to restrict the work of some Russian media outlets, Peskov said that he has no information that some US media may be recognized undesirable in Russia.

    "Of course, the freedom of media in Russia, of all foreign media, their equality with Russian media outlets is very important for us," Dmitry Peskov said. "And first of all, of course, we are guided by this law," the press secretary added.

    Andrei Klimov, head of the Federation Council Commission on protection of state sovereignty, also commented on the issue, saying that a number of non-governmental organizations with de-facto US' participation could be banned in Russia on proposal by the upper house of parliament by the end of 2017.

    "We are now considering the possibility of recognizing several foreign organizations as 'unwanted'. They are not formally American, but they 'have American ears'," Klimov said.

    Klimov declined to specify the names of these organizations and the scope of their activities, but noted that they have no relation to the media.

    The upper house of the Russian parliament will consider a number of legislative proposals in response to discrimination of Russian media abroad by October 23. Lawmaker Klimov stressed that it was a response rather than a preventive measure, and these measures may not be implemented unless the US continued to discriminate Russia's RT broadcaster.

    The statements come as RT and Sputnik News Agency have come under intense scrutiny in the United States, with US lawmakers questioning whether RT should have been registered under FARA and, most recently, asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to look into Sputnik Radio. Moreover, the FBI reportedly questioned former Sputnik reporter Andrew Feinberg as part of an investigation into allegations that Sputnik is acting as an agency of foreign political propaganda in September, with Moscow saying that it "reserves the right to respond to the outrageous actions of the American side."

    RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan commented on possible "illegal" restrictions for the work of the Russian broadcaster, saying that RT might cease its activities in the United States due to increasing pressure from the country's authorities. At the same time, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia could respond, if the United States continues to exert pressure on Russian media working in the United States.

    Last week, media reported that the US Senate Intelligence Committee asked senior managers from Facebook, Google and Twitter to testify in front of the US Congress at a public hearing scheduled for October as part of the probe into Russia's alleged attempts to use social media to influence the November 2016 election, a claim repeatedly denounced by Russian officials.

    In the latest development, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Google, which owns YouTube, has dropped RT from its package of popular channels aimed at advertisers.

    Russia has faced multiple accusations from officials and the media in the US of alleged interference in the US presidential election, although the claims have not been substantiated. Top Russian officials have repeatedly denied these allegations and stressed that Russia avoids interfering in other states’ domestic affairs.


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    media, Sputnik, RT, Dmitry Peskov, US, Russia
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