15 september / 2017

Excerpts from the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

Question: On September 1, FBI agents questioned former Sputnik Agency employee Andrew Feinberg in the United States, while investigating allegations that the agency was acting as a Russian propaganda vehicle in violation of the US Foreign Agents Act. What does the Foreign Ministry think about these FBI actions?

Maria Zakharova: We see the actions of Washington, which promotes itself as a defender of freedom of speech (but we see what is really happening), to be provocative. It is unacceptable to question journalists in connection with their professional activity. We did not invent this rule, and basically the entire international community has approved it. The appropriate documents, declarations and conventions exist. The US’ pressure on a Russian information agency is an obvious violation of the international obligations of freedom of speech and media activity, including the principle of the freedom of obtaining and disseminating information, as formalised by the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.
This unmotivated US action is unacceptable for a democratic state. This is an alarming sign for the world’s journalist community. It is very important to understand that this is not the problem of Russian media outlets or Russian-US relations. On the contrary, all media outlets and international journalists and the information community are facing this problem. If it is possible to behave this way towards certain journalists, it is possible to behave this way towards everyone tomorrow.
We reserve the right to respond to the US side’s outrageous actions.
I would like to tell you something from my experience of working at UN Headquarters. Today, I mentioned work to advance the draft resolution “On combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” It would appear that the very title of this document would exclude the possibility of someone refusing to support it. No politician or ordinary person in a modern civilised world would reject this document. But Washington always actively opposes this document and works accordingly with the delegations of other countries. This can be seen in the voting results. The United States always votes against a resolution aiming to prevent all types and modern forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, etc. What do you think are our American colleagues' motives when they vote against this document? Their decision to vote against it is motivated by possible violations of freedom of speech and freedom to express one’s viewpoint. Can you imagine? You can read the text of this document on the UN website because it is adopted every year. This document could become a “guiding star” for combating modern forms of every conceivable type of racial discrimination, intolerance and xenophobia. Violation of freedom of speech and opinion motivates Washington to vote against this document. According to the United States, people expressing racist views will not be stopped by this resolution because their freedom of speech is being violated. Can you imagine? At the same time, people who are feeling so sensitive about freedom of speech question Russian journalists, although it is basically unimportant for what national media outlet they work, and their national affiliation is also irrelevant. They question them with the help of official agencies, and real interrogations are conducted.
This is more than double standards, this extreme behavior is destructive to international law and freedom of speech in general.