Reported FBI questioning of ex-Sputnik employee points to US media censorship – Kremlin
Peskov’s statement comes amid reports of an FBI investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by Sputnik, an English-language, Moscow-headquartered news outlet.
“The questioning of journalists, or former journalists in connection with their journalistic activities, does not speak well for pluralism of opinions and press freedom. It likely points to serious problems with censorship and with limiting the media's field of work. This is cause for our concern,” Peskov said on Tuesday.
Foreign correspondents who work in Russia are not censored by the authorities, he stated.
“Any censorship is unacceptable; any persecution based on content is unacceptable. What’s more, foreign media [in Russia] have equal rights to our local media," Peskov said.
On Monday, Yahoo News reported that the investigation is centered on Andrew Feinberg, a former White House correspondent for the agency, who apparently handed over a “thumb drive containing thousands of internal Sputnik emails and documents,” after being fired in May this year.
“They wanted to know where did my orders come from [sic] and if I ever got any direction from Moscow,” Feinberg, who claimed that he was interviewed by FBI for no less than two hours, told Yahoo News. “They were interested in examples of how I was steered towards covering certain issues.”
In the meantime, Sputnik dismissed the investigation, which Yahoo News indicated could also be part of the wider Robert Mueller inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“That an investigation is being conducted against us is not surprising, since the atmosphere of hysteria in relation to everything that belongs to Russia has been created in the country, and everything with the word ‘Russian’ is seen through the prism of spy mania,” Mindia Gavasheli, editor-in-chief of the Sputnik Bureau in Washington, DC, said in a statement.
“We are journalists, and mostly Americans work here. We believe that any assumption that we are engaged in anything other than journalism is an absolute lie and fabrication.”
Earlier the company that supplies all services for RT America channel, including TV production and operations, in the US, received a letter from the US Department of Justice, claiming that the company is obligated to register under FARA due to the work it does for RT.
Entities in the active FARA register include tourist boards and lobbyists, but no media outlets, which have been exempt from the legislation.
“The war the US establishment wages with our journalists is dedicated to all the starry-eyed idealists who still believe in freedom of speech. Those who invented it have buried it,” said RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.
Adopted in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation on US soil, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA is “a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the data from FARA’s website.