Some American reporters may be banned from the Russian legislature in retaliation for Kremlin-run media outlets losing credentials, following a Monday appeal from a Russian diplomat.
"We insist that retaliatory measures be taken to mirror theirs,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a committee of the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian legislature.
Media credentialing has become the new theater of a diplomatic row between Russia and the U.S. following the cyberattacks against the Democratic Party during the 2016 elections. The Justice Department required RT, a state-run media outlet, to register as a foreign agent after U.S. intelligence officials identified it as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet” in a January report. Subsequently, RT was stripped of its congressional credentials by the body of journalists who manage media access at the Capitol.
"We believe that yanking RT’s Congress accreditation should result in US media being denied access to the State Duma’s events,” Zakharova said, per TASS, another state-run publication.
She specified that the Duma should target American outlets that "receive funds from the US Department of State,” raising the possibility that the move would leave private media companies untouched.
“As far as we understand, this concerns at least nine to ten American media outlets,” Zakharova said, per the Moscow Times. “Let it be a surprise which ones.”
Russia also passed legislation expanding President Vladimir Putin's authority to brand U.S. media outlets as “foreign agents,” prompting State Department concerns that his would try “to monitor or block certain internet activity” in Russia.
“Freedom of expression — including speech and media which a government may find inconvenient — is a universal human rights obligation Russia has pledged to uphold,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in November.
Russian media also reported that the government has contemplated a ban on print publications such as the New York Times. But Zakharova urged the Duma to take a narrow approach to the retaliation.
“These actions should not apply to all news outlets, as the response needs to be precise,” she said.