MOSCOW, April 27 (Reuters) - Russia accused French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign team of discriminating against its media on Thursday, saying it had trampled on the freedom of the press by banning Russian news outlets from its events.
The Kremlin has been irritated by accusations from the Macron camp that its campaign’s networks, databases and sites have come under attack from locations inside Russia, fuelling suspicions that Russia is trying to undermine Macron’s campaign to help Marine Le Pen, his rival.
Moscow has rejected allegations of meddling, and on Thursday Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, told a news briefing that the Macron campaign had refused to accredit the Sputnik news agency, the RT TV channel, and the Ruptly video agency for the first round of the French election, meaning they were unable to get proper access to Macron campaign events.
Sputnik and RT receive Russian state funding. RT is Ruptly’s parent company.
Calling the move “outrageous”, Zakharova said Moscow viewed the ban as “deliberate and bare-faced discrimination against Russian media by the presidential candidate of a state that has historically been vigilant when it comes to free speech.”
She called on the relevant French authorities and international organisations to ensure that freedom of the press was upheld in the second round of the presidential election, which is scheduled for May 7.
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT, said on social media the Macron campaign was refusing to accredit her organisation and the others for the second round as well however.
“So this is how gracelessly freedom of speech ends in a country which prides itself on its freedoms almost more than it prides itself on its Camembert and Brie cheeses,” said Simonyan.
President Vladimir Putin granted an audience to Le Pen in the Kremlin last month, bestowing a level of international recognition that had until then eluded her in the countdown to the election.
Le Pen has said she admires Putin and backs the lifting of the European Union’s economic sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict.
The Kremlin says it is not backing any candidate in the election, which it says is purely a matter for the French people. (Editing by Vladimir Soldatkin)