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Deutsche Welle Journalists Threatened With Punishment In Russia

Vasily Piskarev heads the commission investigating potential meddling.
Vasily Piskarev heads the commission investigating potential meddling.

The head of a Russian parliamentary commission pursuing Moscow's claim that Germany's public broadcaster promoted unrest in Russia has threatened punishment against Deutsche Welle journalists working in the country.

Lawmaker Vasily Piskarev, who chairs a State Duma commission set up to probe foreign meddling in domestic affairs, said a Deutsche Welle representative must appear before a parliamentary hearing or draw its ire, according to an Interfax report cited by dpa.

If they don't Piskarev reportedly said, "We will petition for the government to suspend or completely revoke the accreditation of their correspondents."

The Duma has published a letter in German and Russian in which Deutsche Welle reportedly said it would not participate in any such hearings.

Russian police have been criticized for impeding reporters trying to cover a series of major Moscow protests, with some reporters being detained and equipment damaged.

A Deutsche Welle correspondent, Sergei Dik, was briefly detained while covering a Moscow protest in late July.

Then, after a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman alleged -- without providing evidence -- in early August that Deutsche Welle had improperly encouraged the protests, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the charge d'affaires at the German Embassy to say that Russia “reserves the right to hold Deutsche Welle to account under Russian law if such calls happen again."

Deutsche Welle Director-General Peter Limbourg called Moscow's accusations unacceptable, saying, "When journalists who are reporting on a demonstration are across the board declared as participants, it is not just a blatant violation of the freedom of the press but rather the behavior of a police state."

One day after the accusation against the Germans, Russia summoned a senior U.S. diplomat after accusing the State Department of meddling in Russia's internal affairs. The State Department's Twitter feed had published a map along with a travel advisory showing the proposed route of an opposition protest in the Russian capital on August 3. The advisory also included the planned protest's time and streets affected.

Based on reporting by dpa