06:32 GMT +328 May 2018
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    'Alarming Signal': FBI Probe of Sputnik Threatens Press Freedom, Human Rights

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    The FBI’s reported questioning of former Sputnik correspondent Andrew Feinberg is sending an alarming signal to reporters everywhere and is a threat to press freedom and human rights everywhere, the head of the Association of Turkish Journalists, Mustafa Kuleli, told Sputnik.

    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.

    Kuleli said that the FBI started investigating Feinberg right after  a bill to give the Justice Department and the FBI emergency powers to investigate organizations allegedly trying to influence US domestic politics.

    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.

    “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.

    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.

    Related:

    FBI Investigation Into Sputnik Indicates Serious Censorship Problems - Kremlin
    US Press Freedom Advocates Concerned Over FBI Involvement Into Sputnik
    Tags:
    Sputnik correspondent, questioning, investigation, press freedom, threat, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), US Justice Department, Joseph John Fionda, Andrew Feinberg, Mustafa Kuleli, Margarita Simonyan, Dmitry Peskov, United States
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