Voice of America and Radio Free Europe are in virtually identical situations in the U.S., meaning they are ideal for the Russians to target in a tit-for-tat retaliation.
Joanna Levison, director of media and public affairs at RFE/RL, said Wednesday it had received the ministry's letters that said "we may be subject to restrictions under the "foreign agent" law". "These media outlets are not covered by the federal law".
US intelligence officials accuse the Kremlin of using Russian media organizations it finances to influence USA voters, and this week Washington required Russian state broadcaster RT to register a US -based affiliate company as a "foreign agent".
The OSCE announced that Desir "wrote to the authorities of both the United States and the Russian Federation asking them for the reasons behind the requirement that certain media organizations register under legislation concerning "foreign agents" in the respective countries", and also "asked about the consequences of these requirements in terms of the ability of the concerned media and their journalists to freely work and report in the respective states".
Harlem Desir, a media freedom representative at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Thursday he is concerned by the moves by both the U.S. Justice Department and Russian authorities. Many NGOs have closed in response to the intense scrutiny. "But sadly, the bill will not simply hurt foreign media, but worse, unjustifiably limit Russian citizens' right to access information and ideas", he said.
The ministry said Thursday it has notified the USA government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, along with its regional outlets, that they could be designated as foreign agents under the new law. "This legislation is tailor-made to be selectively and politically enforced, and to silence voices they do not want Russian people to hear". "Between legal action and registration [as a foreign agent], we have chosen the latter", Simonyan said on Monday.
Washington considers RT a propaganda arm of the Kremlin and told it to register its American operation under the Foreign Agents Registration Act aimed at lobbyists and lawyers representing foreign political interests.