The Russian government has threatened to strip the accreditation of U.S. news organizations in Russia if the United States does not agree to treat Russian journalists better. Despite Russia’s criticism, the United States has continued to give visas to qualified journalists and has not revoked any foreign press credentials already held by Russian journalists.
Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, told reporters that “the Russians continue to make a false equivalency. The Russian government fundamentally and willfully disregards what it means to have a free press, as evidenced by the blocking or banning of nearly every independent Russian outlet seeking to report inside their country.” According to TASS, the threats are in response to the U.S. blocking the bank accounts of Russian journalists. Zakharova stated that “If you are not ready to unblock the evolving situation regarding Russian journalists and mass media outlets, we will be forced to resort to reciprocal measures in regard to your American journalists.” Price, in turn, said the Russian government “is engaged in a full assault on media freedom, access to information, and the truth” by making this threat.
It is clear that neither of these parties believes that their foreign press is being treated fairly by the other’s government, and both are creating a more hostile environment for global communication. Disagreements between governments should not be taken against civilians trying to do their jobs. This is particularly true in the case of journalists, as their contribution to global communication and local understanding of events is vital. Threatening tit-for-tat retribution upon journalists in Russia is a clear sign of disregard for their importance and a step away from peaceful negotiation. Even given Russia’s view of U.S. actions, reciprocity of hostility only escalates the situation, putting more civilians in danger and risking harsher action from both parties.
Maria Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s head of information and press, called journalists and representatives from U.S. media companies to a meeting in which they were to learn the “consequences of what Russia says is the hostile treatment of Russian media working in the U.S.” according to NPR. Within Russia, the government has also been hostile to its own domestic reporters, creating laws about terms that can be used in media coverage and jailing both reporters and citizens who give interviews that go against the government’s official narrative.
Given Russia’s historical treatment of journalists, this action does not come as a surprise, but it is nonetheless unreasonable. Rather than viewing the only solution to international disputes as an eye for an eye retaliation, governments should work together to achieve what each of them desires, particularly in situations like these where the two are not mutually exclusive. Instead of holding innocent civilians hostage to reach negotiations, these discussions should focus on those already being harmed and how their situations can be improved.
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