Russia's Foreign Ministry has accused Western journalists of lying about the censorship and harassment they reportedly face from Russian authorities.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova singled out reporters from the Reuters news agency during a tirade at her weekly press conference.
"Do you have a conscience? Answer me this: when have you ever faced any of these things?” she said. “If the situation here is just like how your editor-in-chief describes it, then how come we don't know about it?”
“Who is lying here? Your chief editor? The editor-in-chief of Reuters is lying like this to the whole world, telling them that his staff in Russia are really facing all of this? Or are hiding something from him? Are you misleading him?,” she asked.
Reuters chief Stephen Adler released an open letter to journalists reeling in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Adler called on U.S. journalists to follow the example of their colleagues in “Turkey, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia.”
He described the countries as nations where Reuters face “censorship, legal prosecution, visa denials, and even physical threats to our journalists.”
The claims sparked outrage from Zakharova, who said that Reuters had never complained to the government about state-sanctioned harassment. She also said that she expected a detailed explanation from Reuters on the allegations.
Zakharova instead took the opportunity to highlight the plight of Russia's state media, who she described as being constantly harassed by Western governments — particularly in Britain, where Reuters is based.
“Look at what they're doing to Russia Today,” she said. “Every month they receive threats from the government on one pretense or another, saying that they'll be closed down.”