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McCain: U.S. must not shirk from calling Russian propaganda what it is

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Ben Moffat/Cronkite News

Responding to Russia's plans to register international media outlets as foreign agents, U.S. Sen. John McCain reiterated his stance that "RT's propagandists debunk the truth, spread lies, and seek to undermine democratic governments in order to further Vladimir Putin's agenda."

The lower house of Russia's parliament gave unanimous approval to a bill Wednesday allowing Putin's government to register foreign press outlets. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement:

Vladimir Putin's Russia is moving closer to designating international media outlets as 'foreign agents,' supposedly in retaliation for the U.S. Department of Justice's request that RT, which the U.S. intelligence community has called 'the Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet,' to register under the Foreign Agents Restoration Act.

As a champion for free speech and free press around the world, the United States must be very clear: there is no equivalence between RT and television networks such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, CNN, or the BBC. The journalists that work for these networks seek the truth, debunk lies, and hold governments accountable. RT's propagandists debunk the truth, spread lies, and seek to undermine democratic governments in order to further Vladimir Putin's agenda.

Vladimir Putin needs no excuse to crack down on foreign media outlets, just as he needed no excuse to murder countless journalists and political opponents over the last several years. Putin knows that the greatest threat to his dictatorship is the truth and the willingness of true Russian patriots to speak and act upon it.

The United States should not shirk defending our democracy by calling RT what it is — a propaganda network — and requiring its U.S. channel to register as a foreign agent. At the same time, together with our allies in the Free World, we should continue to support the right of the Russian people to access media willing to report the truth.

John McCain is a Republican Senator from Arizona.

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