In the latest round of tit-for-tat sparring between the United States and Russia, the authorities in Moscow warned on Friday of a coming crackdown on American media outlets that operate in Russia, including CNN.
The move was explicitly intended as retaliation for an apparent American censure of RT, the state-run news organization formerly known as Russia Today, which American intelligence sources have accused of being used as a propaganda outlet.
Officials in President Vladimir V. Putin’s government said CNN, along with the federally funded Voice of America and Radio Liberty, might be designated as foreign agents, essentially identifying them as hostile intelligence outfits.
In the United States, the designation of foreign agent is typically assigned to foreign lobbying groups. Russia’s suggestion that it might assign the label to foreign news organizations like CNN — potentially restricting their distribution and operation — was likely to raise alarm bells among press freedom groups.
On Thursday, RT agreed to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent in the United States, despite vehement objections from the network’s leadership. Representatives of RT have denied that the Russian authorities dictate its coverage. In addition, the Russian authorities had previously warned that any American censure of RT would be met with a response.
Tensions in the international media sphere are rising at a time when ties between the Russian authorities and the Trump campaign are the subject of an investigation by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.