‘Violates freedom of press’: Russia’s Zakharova on FBI questioning ex-Sputnik employee

‘Violates freedom of press’: Russia’s Zakharova on FBI questioning ex-Sputnik employee
Russian Foreign Ministry has slammed the FBI questioning of former Sputnik employee Andrew Feinberg, and said Russia has every right to respond to the “outrageous actions” of the US.

“The pressure of the US authorities on the Russian news agency is an obvious violation of international commitments regarding the freedom of expression and media activities. Such an unjustified move by the United States is unacceptable for a democratic state,” Zakharova said.

The statement comes amid reports of an FBI investigation into alleged violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by the agency.

“We reserve the right to respond to the outrageous actions of the American side,” Zakharova said Friday. She added that any questioning of a journalist because of his professional activities is unacceptable.

The spokesperson stressed that Washington violates international law and freedom of expression norms despite “posing as the protector of free speech.”

The Foreign Ministry’s statement comes hot on the heels of earlier reports about the FBI questioning former Sputnik employee Andrew Feinberg. The former White House correspondent for the agency is reportedly under investigation for being Russia’s “propaganda arm,” Yahoo news reported on Monday.

Feinberg said that the agency had a particular interest in his former employer’s “internal structure, editorial processes and funding” during his two-hour-long interview according to Yahoo News, citing the journalist.

“They wanted to know where did my orders come from and if I ever got any direction from Moscow,” Feinberg told the portal. “They were interested in examples of how I was steered towards covering certain issues.”

The news aggregator said that the FBI might have obtained his working correspondence as a part of the investigation of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US elections. All the accusations have been repeatedly dismissed by Russia.

“Unfortunately, the media reports that an investigation is being conducted against us are 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,” the head of the Sputnik Bureau in Washington DC Mindia Gavasheli said, as cited by the agency.

“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," Gavasheli stated on Monday.

Earlier this week RT and Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said that Washington is killing freedom of speech. She also warned that Moscow could follow the US example in examining its journalists’ work in Russia.

“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 stated.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also joined the wave of criticism over the interrogation of Andrew Feinberg.

“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.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice is pushing RT’s American channel supplier to register as a “foreign agent” under FARA due to the work it does for RT. So far no media outlets were subjected to FARA as they have traditionally 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,” Margarita Simonyan said.