US Accuses the Kremlin of Stifling Press Freedom

"We condemn the selective targeting of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America under Russia's law on 'foreign agent' media outlets."

Washington: The US state department accused Moscow of stifling press freedom and media independence on Friday after a Russian court fined US government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) for violating Russia’s “foreign agent” law.

RFE/RL said that the court found it guilty on Thursday of not complying fully with Moscow’s foreign agent law and fined it 100,000 roubles ($1,585), which the broadcaster described as the latest step in a campaign against its operations.

“The Russian government continues to stifle press freedom and media independence”, said state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a statement. “We condemn the selective targeting of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America under Russia’s law on ‘foreign agent’ media outlets”.

Russia designated RFE/RL and Voice of America as foreign agents in December. The decision required the outlets to include a statement mentioning their status as foreign agents in any information they publish or broadcast to Russian audiences.

The Russian decision was seen as retaliation for what Moscow said was unacceptable US pressure on Russian media in the US.

US intelligence officials have accused the Kremlin of using state-sponsored Russian media to influence US voters. Last year, Washington forced Russian state broadcaster RT to register its US-based affiliate as a foreign agent under US law.

Nauert said that the Russian state Duma had approved additional legislation that could enable the government to extend the foreign agent designation to individual journalists in addition to media outlets.

“The United States again calls on the Russian government to uphold its commitments … to respect the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression in Russia”, said Nauert.