On Monday, the Yahoo News portal reported that the FBI had questioned former Sputnik correspondent Andrew Feinberg as part of its investigation into whether Sputnik was acting as a tool of so-called Kremlin propaganda in violation of the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The portal claimed that the FBI had access to Sputnik's work correspondence from Feinberg and another former employee of Sputnik's Washington bureau, Joseph John Fionda, amid an investigation into an alleged Russian campaign to influence the 2016 US presidential election.
“Unfortunately, we see a rise of authoritarianism and pressure on journalists happening everywhere in the world. We see this alarming tendency also in what is being done by the Trump Administration. It is very unfortunate it is happening in the US where freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Constitution,” Kuleli told Sputnik Turkey.
He said that accusing journalists of spying or lobbyism is absolutely impermissible and that local and foreign media representatives should enjoy equal rights in any country, just like what a Sputnik correspondent enjoys in Turkey.
He warned that this could have a negative impact on press freedoms elsewhere in the world.
“By embarking on this course, the US will start harassing local and international media working in the country thus denying the world access to truthful information. The international community should rise against those why try to deprive society of such hard-earned fundamental freedoms as human rights and press freedoms,” Kuleli emphasized.
The FBI did not respond to the official inquiry on whether it conducted an investigation against the agency within two days, Mindia Gavasheli, editor-in-chief of the Sputnik Bureau in Washington DC, said.
According to Gavasheli, "The request was sent on Saturday to the National Security Division of the US Justice Department to confirm or deny information that an investigation is underway in relation to Sputnik."
Gavasheli specified that he indicated the willingness to answer the FBI's questions if any were to arise.
Sputnik, and RT’s editor-in-chief, commenting on the FBI interrogation of Sputnik former employee Andrew Feinberg, said that if an investigation against the agency is being held, Russia could do the same in response.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the FBI probe indicates serious censorship problems in the United States, describing the action as a move contradicting pluralism and freedom of the press.
"We do not have detailed information, but in any case, interrogations of journalists or ex-journalists in connection with journalistic activities certainly do not speak in favor of pluralism of opinion and freedom of the press. They rather speak about serious problems with censorship and limiting the work of the press," Dmitry Peskov told reporters.