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Restriction on Russian media is attack on free speech, says Putin

Danang (Vietnam) –  Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said Russia would respond in kind to what he said were Washington’s measures to restrict the freedom of speech of Russian media organisations operating on U.S soil.

Putin, however, said that possible plans to retaliate by declaring U.S media operating in Russia as foreign agents may be “a little too harsh,” and that the Kremlin was still formulating its exact response.

Kremlin-backed broadcaster Russia Today had been told to register in the United States as a “foreign agent.”

U.S intelligence officials said the broadcaster tried to influence the U.S presidential election on Kremlin’s behalf, an allegation the broadcaster and the Kremlin denied.

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On Friday, the pro-Kremlin speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, said legislation could be introduced later designating U.S. and some other foreign media operating in Russia as foreign agents.

Speaking to newsmen at the end of an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam, Putin said: “An attack on our media in the United States is an attack on freedom of speech, without a doubt. We’re disappointed.”

“What is being discussed in the State Duma (lower house of parliament), I saw it yesterday, and it may be a little too harsh.

“However, it’s natural because at the level of the legislative arm, you often hear extreme views, harsh judgment and tough proposals.

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“But we will have to formulate some kind of response and it will mirror the measures adopted by U.S authorities toward Russian media in the U.S.

“I want to draw your attention to the fact that there is no way it can’t be confirmation that Russian media meddled in election campaigns,” Putin said.

Being designated as “foreign agents” in Russia would oblige foreign media to submit regular reports to the authorities about their staffing and their sources of funding. (Reuters/NAN)

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