‘Double Standard’: US blasts Russia for blocking Voice of America

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks in the Kremlin in Moscow.AP

U.S. officials are assailing the Russian government for shutting down Voice of America's radio broadcasts in Moscow, in a move that marked a dramatic escalation of the message war between the two governments amid the Ukraine conflict.

The U.S. government-backed radio broadcast had been operating from a local frequency in Russia's capital for years. But Dmitry Kiselev, the director of the information agency Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), informed Voice of America late last month it would "not cooperate" with a U.S. request to renew its license. 

According to Russian media, he dismissed U.S. and other radio stations as a "spam on our frequencies." 

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday condemned the decision and accused Russia of hypocrisy for defending free speech in other countries, but not their own. 

"We call on them now to drop this obvious double standard, and allow the same access to information for their people that it insists other nations provide," she said. 

Asked Friday if the U.S. would reciprocate by shutting down Russia outlets in the U.S., Psaki said the U.S. would not -- because of a belief in free media. 

The Russia media decision has hardened the stand-off between Vladimir Putin's government and the West over the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and troop build-up on the Ukraine border. U.S. officials argue that the Russian government has increasingly frozen out media and online publications, while ignoring harassment of and attacks on journalists in the country. 

The U.S. Embassy in Russia issued a scathing statement, saying the license denial is "particularly ironic" since Russian officials were just denouncing a Kiev court for allowing the suspension of Russian broadcasts in Ukraine. 

"We call on the Russian government to allow the same access to information for their people that it insists other nations provide," the U.S. Embassy said. 

Diplomatic officials are stepping into the fray after Russia's media infrastructure tangled days earlier with the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Voice of America. 

"Moscow has chosen to do the wrong thing and restrict free speech," BBG Chairman Jeff Shell said in a statement

According to the BBG, distribution of Voice of America and other related programming reached a "high point" in Russia in 2005. But the Russian government then started asking U.S. stations to reapply for their licenses, and began denying them. 

Shell noted that while Russia cracks down on U.S. outlets, Russian media including Russia Today enjoy "open access" in the United States. 

According to Russia Today, Kiselev denied the decision to end the Voice of America contract had "anything to do with the freedom of speech." 

He reportedly said that Voice of America and one other station in question "have nothing original to say." 

U.S. officials noted that the license decision is part of a broader pattern, where the Russian government has passed laws "imposing unprecedented censorship and restrictions on media and online publications." 

This includes blocking independent websites and blogs, and denying visas to foreign journalists. 

Despite the license denial, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Russian Service still offers radio programming over the Internet and satellite.

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commented 2014-04-12 16:12:44 -0400 · Flag
JC writes:

would take as least that long & would require OPEC (read: saudi) friendly assist.
still not sure if oil would behave, whie fracking is a boon, well depletion is staggering
so many of the wells could not economically viable w oil
commented 2014-04-12 16:11:51 -0400 · Flag
C.R. writes:

could not agree more. although from all accounts, it appears that the russian armed forces have been spending some busy recent years upgrading (something like an 80% increase in defense spending by that klepto-petro-thug in recent years), and are now not quite as inept as they were 10-15 years ago. i have little doubt, in the main, it is still no match for the US, but the gap is closing, at least as it relates to rapid response/shock deploy capabilities, thanks to the magic o’s pacifist delusion while putin arms up to re-build a soviet sphere of ‘near-abroad’ clientele states.

meanwhile, the defense-starved, eco-infantilist, maxi-delusionist western europe has enervated itself with NO defense policy (other than counting on US) and effectively NO energy policy (except spreading it’s cheeks for more putin gas — faustian bargains).

the solution is beyond simple to fathom, but it would take a decade if not more to execute… as you state, bring down the price of energy by fully unleashing an energy revolution here in the US and finally embarking on one in europe. oil/gas prices would decline as commercially deployable market alternatives came into existence, russia’s realpolitik model would be rendered fully obsolete. but putin is a savvy enough geo-political chess player to know that with the cowardly and effete likes of the magic o and merkel, there’s NO chance for such long duree adult behavior taking root.
commented 2014-04-12 16:07:36 -0400 · Flag
A.R. writes:

Easy. 1. Crush the oil price. 2.Impose harsh sanctions on kleptocrat-obtained petro-dollars floating in international bank accounts.

Russia is what it has always historically been…an impoverished behemoth with a thin crust of fabulously wealthy oligarchs and tyrants running an oppressive (and for them lucrative) State Apparatus. Their armed forces are rusting and inferior. Putin is a puffed up little bully. If his economy – solely dependent on energy sales as Russia produces nothing of value except vodka and 2nd rate armaments – craters his standing at home suffers.

Of course, then (the U.S.) should prepare for war, because that will be his only recourse to save face and distract the drunken populace from their misery…
commented 2014-04-12 16:06:15 -0400 · Flag
JC writes:

what would be your realpolitk move to counter Vlad?
commented 2014-04-12 16:05:18 -0400 · Flag
A.R. writes:

Revoke RT’s license and get it off the air. The pose of “Moral Superiority” is useless and counter-productive. Let Putin know that paddy-cakes is over.