Russia Acts to Name US Media as 'Foreign Agents' in RT Dispute

Zurab Dzhavakhadze  TASS

Zurab Dzhavakhadze TASS

The Department of Justice originally set a November 13 deadline for RT to register as a foreign agent in the wake of the federal and congressional probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Russia plans new measures to restrict USA media working here after a Russian English-language TV channel said it was pressured into registering as a foreign agent in the United States, a senior legislator said Friday.

Russian lawmakers raced Friday to draft measures requiring USA media outlets and possibly social media networks to register as foreign agents, saying they could be adopted as early as next week.

"What the US authorities are doing today is an infringement of the fundamental rights of citizens and freedom of speech", Vyacheslav Volodin said in a statement, reacting to Washington's demand that Russian State-funded TV station RT, also known as Russia Today, register in the United States as a foreign agent.

"It deprives us of fair competition with other worldwide channels, which are not registered as foreign agents", said RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.

"It contradicts both the democracy and freedom of speech principles".

The U.S. action against RT was taken after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russian Federation of trying to interfere in last year's U.S. presidential election to help President Donald Trump win the White House, something Moscow has denied. "Since such decisions are being made on USA territory in relation to our TV channels, it will be right for us to respond to these actions".

A senior lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party, Sergei Neverov, told reporters that the new measures could include social networks.

"When it comes down to a fight with no rules, when the law is twisted and turned into an instrument for the destruction of a TV company, every step against a Russian media outlet will be met with a corresponding response", she said. Such a registration would require any reporting to be labeled as being financed or influenced by the Russian government, among other restrictions.

Washington has been fighting what it calls a barrage of "fake news" from Russian media, including RT and the Sputnik news agency, which it says is aimed at interfering in USA domestic politics.

"The Russian side has repeatedly warned that any measures limiting activity of the Russian mass media in the United States will inevitably trigger an immediate symmetrical response, as provided for in the Russian legislation", the Russian Embassy in the U.S.

RT has been singled out as a propaganda outlet in the wake of alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential vote.

Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor, for its part, proposed blocking the websites of foreign media groups and nongovernmental organisations, without any need of a court order.

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