Russian state-owned news network RT is pushing back against U.S. accusations of being "Russian propaganda" following reports that Moscow employed state-run media to influence the U.S. 2016 presidential election.
RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan told NBC News that she is "very saddened by what is going on right now between Russia and America," amid escalating tensions between the two nations in the aftermath of 2016.
The network chief's comments come after the U.S. government demanded in November that RT America, the company's U.S. branch, register as a "foreign agent" in response to the U.S. intelligence community report that denoted the network as the "Kremlin's principal international propaganda outlet."
“I don’t understand why any country is given a chance to make its point of view seen and heard by the world, and Russia is not given that chance,” Simonyan added. "Russia is said to be propaganda for doing exactly that. We are no more propaganda than the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe is propaganda."
Formerly known as Russia Today, the state-funded network says it does not pressure its journalists to push any agenda or adapt certain views, yet the intelligence agencies' report says it tried to "influence politics [and] fuel discontent" in the U.S. and "conducts strategic messaging for [the] Russian government."
U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that RT, which they say rebranded itself to avoid overt Russian ties, employs "anti-U.S." messaging aimed at "undermining viewers' trust in U.S. democratic procedures," NBC News learned from the declassified report.
Russia has consistently denied having deployed propaganda to influence the election, and hit back against the Justice Department's demand that RT register as a foreign agent with an "immediate symmetrical response," requiring the same of the U.S.-based Radio Free Europe and Voice of America.
The top editor says the network aims only to cover underreported stories and inform audiences.
“We are not Communists anymore. We have changed, but for some reason the establishment doesn’t recognize it and doesn’t give us a chance to show that we have changed," Simonyan said. "You don’t have to be afraid of us anymore."