Unlike the Trump White House, which tends to leak like a busted faucet, Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin is staffed by a lot of tight-lipped ex-intelligence types. Which means the country’s parliament is one of the few places left in Moscow where Western journalists can still saunter up to a government official and get them to talk.
Now, they’re in danger of losing even that limited access.
Russia’s parliament is about to ban most American reporters from even entering the building, including, possibly, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Newsweek, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, Bloomberg — along with state-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, according to Interfax.
It’s just the latest in a series of moves against the press that’s made Russia one of the worst countries in the world for journalism, according to Freedom House, which cites the country’s “limited access to critical or independent coverage” and “widespread reports of attacks, arrests, and threats against both professional journalists and social media users.”
The decision, which could come next week, is part of a spiraling tit-for-tat between Moscow and Washington that has put media in the crosshairs. And it is in response to a move by an American correspondents’ group to yank Russian network RT’s Congressional press card.
That body, the Congressional Radio & Television Correspondents’ Galleries, said in a letter to RT on Wednesday it was pulling the network’s access to Capitol Hill after the outlet was forced to register as a “foreign agent” by the U.S. Justice Department in November.
The Justice Department had said registering as a foreign agent wouldn’t impact RT’s content. RT CEO Margarita Simonyan said pulling RT’s Capitol Hill access proved that was a lie.
“Withdrawal of Congressional credentials speaks much louder than empty platitudes,” Simonyan said.
In November, Putin signed legislation giving his Ministry of Justice the power to make foreign news agencies register as foreign agents, too. Failure to do so could result in fines or being banned.