Kremlin doesn’t rule out tit-for-tat measures if US continues crackdown on Russian media

Moscow has not ruled out retaliatory measures if Washington continues its crackdown on Russian media outlets in the US, the Kremlin said. It added that US pressure on Russian media violates freedom of speech.

A number of Russian outlets are under “unprecedented pressure,” which “significantly hampers the activities of Russian media in some Western countries, first of all in the US,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.

In the event of further US government restrictions on Russian media, Moscow “can’t rule out retaliatory actions,” Peskov said. 

According to the Kremlin, the US actions towards Russian media outlets are “a violation of freedom of speech and press.”

“We hope that such a crackdown on our media, in this case I'm talking about RT and Sputnik in the US, won’t go unnoticed by the relevant international groups whose duties include monitoring the [violations] of freedom of speech and freedom of press,” Peskov added.

He also denied having any information on reports that the Russian General Prosecutor's Office could announce that some American media outlets are persona non grata in Russia.

RT’s American branch could face staff arrests and property seizures if it fails to register itself as a “foreign agent” by October 17, as demanded by the US Department of Justice, the news channel's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said on Thursday at a meeting of the Russian Federation Council’s Interim Committee on the Protection of Sovereignty. The gathering focused on the problems Russian media is facing in the US.

READ MORE: Reported FBI questioning of ex-Sputnik employee points to US media censorship – Kremlin

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was adopted in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation on US soil. It exists so that “the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence US public opinion, policy, and laws.” The active FARA register doesn’t contain any media outlets, which have traditionally been exempt from the legislation.

On Thursday, the Russian Union of Journalists expressed concern over the US pressure towards the Russian media. 

"Unprecedented measures carried out by the US authorities towards our [Russian] media, constant obstruction of journalists’ activity, lawless methods of economic pressure – all these can be called an open ‘witch-hunt,’” the union said, adding that such methods were used during the Cold War. According to the union, the US intention to include Russian media on a list of foreign agents is merely “political.”