"Once again, we see how the French authorities are trying in every way to limit the activities of the Russian media in France by exerting direct pressure on their French partners and creating a toxic and distrustful atmosphere around Russian media," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday, commenting on the French media regulator's request to Aligre FM that it terminate its contract with Sputnik France early.
The spokeswoman also stated that Moscow "would like to hear comments from relevant international structures and human rights organisations in this connection" and they "will also submit this information to the OSCE."
According to the spokeswoman, the incident was another demonstration of "systematic harassment of the Russian media in France."
Commenting on French President Emmanuel Macron's claim about the Sputnik news agency and RT news channel's role in yellow vest protests, Zakharova said that Moscow has been waiting for more than a month for Paris to respond to a diplomatic note that the Russian Foreign Ministry sent to the French Embassy in Moscow, in which it demanded to verify the statements.
"More than a month we are waiting for the French party's response on the Russian diplomatic note with a request to confirm or deny the statements of the French president — there were indirect quotations in weekly Le Point — in which the head of the Republic described the Sputnik news agency and Russia Today as pro-Kremlin media, put them on a par with representatives of radical political movements, including the ultra-nationalist ones," Zakharova said at a briefing.
In early February, French President Emmanuel Macron accused RT and Sputnik news agency of meddling in France's internal affairs. According to the French president, the outlets were buying social network accounts and "trolling" on the Internet. Macron also suggested that the yellow vest protest movement in France was being advised from abroad.
Sputnik and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan refuted Macron's claims of the outlets' buying accounts. Meanwhile, Zakharova pointed out that the yellow vests' representatives appeared on RT and Sputnik more often than French officials because the latter were forbidden by the authorities to talk to these media.
A number of Western politicians, including those in France, the United States and the United Kingdom, have repeatedly accused Sputnik of spreading propaganda, albeit without providing any evidence. Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan and Russian officials have time and again slammed the allegations against Russian media and the pressure put on the outlets abroad. Moreover, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the pressure on Russia-based media abroad unacceptable, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.