Russian foreign ministry says retaliation against United States media could begin next week

Zurab Dzhavakhadze  TASS

Zurab Dzhavakhadze TASS

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russian Federation would retaliate, but did not elaborate.

"It deprives us of fair competition with other worldwide channels, which are not registered as foreign agents", said RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan. "We consider its demand as a wish to eliminate an alternative source of information, which is an unacceptable violation of the global norms of free press", the statement said.

Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the Duma in charge of information policy, said on his Facebook account that the retaliatory measures might also be applied to foreign social media networks.

US and any other foreign media that fall under the new restrictions could have to regularly disclose to Russian authorities full details of their funding, finances and staffing and might be obliged to say on their social media profiles and internet sites visible in Russia that they are "foreign agents".

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

"These are not media, but propaganda tools with 100 percent funding from the US budget", Pushkov was quoted as saying. "It deprives us of fair competition with other worldwide channels, which are not registered as foreign agents".

Washington, which considers RT a propaganda arm for the Kremlin, in September told it to register its American operation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is aimed at lobbyists and lawyers representing foreign political interests.

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Twitter has already banned advertising from RT and Sputnik, another Russian news outlet.

RT, previously known as Russia Today, disputes that it is an agent of the Kremlin, arguing that it merely offers alternatives to mainstream news coverage.

"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.

The Duma earlier this year launched an investigation into whether CNN, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and "other American media" were complying with Russian law.

On Thursday, Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the upper house's Commission on Information Policy and Interaction with Media, held a meeting to discuss the US move and possible retaliatory steps, a Federation Council statement said.

Human rights groups have condemned the label, who say it echoes Soviet-era attacks on dissidents.

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