The State Department on Monday accused Russia of threatening American journalists in Moscow and rejected Kremlin charges that the Biden administration has censored Russian journalists within the United States.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, condemned reports that Russia’s foreign ministry had summoned American journalists to a meeting on Monday and warned that their visas and credentials could be at risk in retaliation for what it called U.S. government hostility toward Russian reporters in America.
“Threatening professional journalists for simply trying to do their jobs and seeking to seal off Russia’s population from any foreign information illustrates the flimsiness and the fragility of the Russian government’s narrative,” Mr. Price said.
Reuters first reported on Monday that a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova — who was sanctioned by the Biden administration last week — told American journalists at the meeting that Russian journalists in the United States have faced problems with visa renewals, harassment by U.S. intelligence agencies and blocked bank accounts. Ms. Zakharova reportedly warned that American journalists in Russia could face similar problems with visas, credentials and banking.
Mr. Price said the Biden administration continues to issue visas to “qualified” Russian journalists in the United States, and has not revoked their credentials.
The Treasury Department last month sanctioned three media outlets that it said were directly or indirectly owned by the Russian state: Russia-1, Channel One and NTV. Mr. Price said their revenues “support President Putin’s war.” “Many other both independent and state-linked entities remained unsanctioned,” he added.
Major private American media platforms like YouTube and Google have blocked other Russian media outlets funded by the Kremlin, including RT and Sputnik, though not at the behest of the U.S. government.
Mr. Price said that Moscow was making a “false equivalency” by suggesting that the U.S. was censoring reporting about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He noted that Russia has criminalized the use of the word “war” to describe its military campaign, which the Kremlin has described as a “special operation.” A new law signed by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in March also allows prison sentences of up to 15 years for people who spread “fake” information about the conflict.
“The Russian government fundamentally and willfully disregards what it means to have a free press, as evidenced by them blocking or banning nearly every independent Russian outlet seeking to report inside their country,” Mr. Price said.