WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Friday issued a bipartisan call for Russia to halt is crackdown on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
“As members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we call on Russian authorities to drop the groundless cases against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Russian Service, Current Time Network, Tatar-Bashkir Service, and Ukrainian Service Crimea Realities project and to cease efforts to deprive Russian citizens of one of the last remaining sources of uncensored and objective news.
“Since coming to power more than 20 years ago, Vladimir Putin has consolidated control of the independent media, passed laws to punish those who criticize his regime, and jeopardized the safety of reporters and other members of the press. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 25 Russian journalists have been killed for their work since 2000.
“This repression has prompted the majority of independent news outlets to close, sell out to state-owned companies and Putin cronies, or to relocate overseas. In this harsh media environment, RFE/RL has performed an invaluable service to the Russian people, providing them uncensored local news that aims to meet the highest standards of objective journalism.
“Long employed to weaken Russian civil society, the Kremlin is now using onerous ‘foreign agent’ laws as a pretext to silence RFE/RL in Russia, pursuing court cases and fines surpassing $1 million since January 14. This is a state-sponsored assault on media freedom. We reaffirm our strong support for RFE/RL’s programming in Russia and call on Putin’s government to end its attacks on the press.”