Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the headquarters of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency in Moscow, Russia, on June 8, 2016. (Xinhua/SPUTNIK)
MOSCOW, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) -- The speaker of the State Duma, Russia's lower house, Friday asked the house committees to prepare a legislative response to the "U.S. pressure on Russian media."
"What the U.S. authorities are doing today is an infringement of the fundamental rights of citizens and freedom of speech," Vyacheslav Volodin said in a statement, reacting to Washington's demand that Russian State-funded TV station RT, also known as Russia Today, register in the United States as a foreign agent.
The U.S. Department of Justice has ordered the broadcaster's American division to register under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) before Nov.13.
FARA requires registration "if an agent disseminates informational materials, by mail or by any means or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce, and intends the materials to be disseminated among two or more persons."
Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of RT, said in a statement that she regarded the requirement as contrary to law and the company intended to challenge it in court.
"This requirement is discriminatory, it contradicts the principles of democracy and freedom of speech, it does not give us equal competition with other foreign TV channels that work in America without being registered as foreign agents," she said.
Volodin said Russia could extend its own law on foreign agents to foreign media in response to Washington's "hostile" actions.
He said the Duma may consider a draft on Wednesday.
A draft normally has to be passed in three readings by the Duma, then get endorsed by the Federation Council, the upper house, before it can be signed into law by the president.
On Thursday, Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the upper house's Commission on Information Policy and Interaction with Media, held a meeting to discuss the U.S. move and possible retaliatory steps, a Federation Council statement said.
It did not give details, but RIA Novosti, the state-operated domestic Russian-language news agency, said Pushkov named CNN, Voice of America and Radio Liberty with its Current Time TV channel as likely targets for retaliation.
"These are not media, but propaganda tools with 100 percent funding from the U.S. budget," Pushkov was quoted as saying.
Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the Duma in charge of information policy, said on his Facebook account that the retaliatory measures might also be applied to foreign social media networks.
"Every media now has its own pages in social networks, which also publish their news, articles and videos. So, the law should provide that media, recognized by foreign agents, indicate the relevant information on these pages," Tolstoy said.
Last Thursday, Twitter announced it would drop advertising by RT and Sputnik-owned accounts on its network due to their alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election last year.
Sputnik is also a state news media including a website and radio broadcast service.
For months Washington has been accusing Moscow of interference and the latter has repeatedly denied the allegation. RT and Sputnik are among the organizations suspected of working on behalf of the Kremlin in its alleged support of then Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.