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Moscow plans retaliation to "US pressure on Russian media"

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Mikhail Fomichev  TASS

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a news briefing that Russia was now considering retaliatory measures against USA media outlets.

"We believe that the demand does not only go against the law, and we will prove it in court - the demand is discriminative, it contradicts both the democracy and freedom of speech principles", Simonyan was quoted as saying by RT.

State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said lawmakers will take up changes to the Russian law on foreign agents to extend it to the media. It would require RT to label anything it produces - making it clear its reports are distributed on behalf of the Russian state.

Russian Federation is poised to list USA media outlets as "foreign agents" by extending legislation used to restrict the activities of civil society groups, in retaliation for an American order requiring state broadcaster RT to register for a similar status.

"These are not media, but propaganda tools with 100 percent funding from the US budget", Pushkov was quoted as saying.

San Francisco-based social network Twitter has also angered Russian authorities when it accused RT and the Sputnik news outlet of interfering in the 2016 US election and banned them from buying ads on its network.

The broadcaster, RT, reported Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice has demanded the registration be done by Monday. Simonyan said the head of RT's USA subsidiary risked detention and the organization's bank accounts could be frozen if it didn't register.

Washington has been fighting what it calls a barrage of "fake news" from Russian media, including RT and the Sputnik news agency, which it says is aimed at interfering in U.S. domestic politics.

"The Russian side has repeatedly warned that any measures limiting activity of the Russian mass media in the United States will inevitably trigger an immediate symmetrical response", the Russian embassy posted.

Russia's embassy in the USA denounced the reported Justice Department order.

The Duma earlier this year launched an investigation into whether CNN, Voice of America, Radio Liberty and "other American media" were complying with Russian law.

RT has been singled out as a propaganda outlet in the wake of alleged Russian meddling in the USA presidential vote. Memorial, one of Russia's oldest human rights groups, which has for three decades sought to expose Soviet mass killings and arrests, and the Levada Center, an independent polling agency, were registered as foreign agents by Russia's Ministry of Justice.

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