RT chooses registering as foreign agent over 'criminal case'

Cheryl Sanders
November 14, 2017

The production company behind the American version of the Russian state-funded network RT has officially filed as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice. "Those who invented it, have buried it", RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan was quoted as saying at the time.

The registration follows an acrimonious back-and-forth between RT and the Justice Department about whether it should have to file paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA. Under the act, RT will be required to disclose financial information.

"Between a criminal case and registration we have chosen the latter".

The US pressed the issue after the Moscow-based broadcaster became a focus of the investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. "We congratulate American freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it", RT head Margarita Simonyan said in a caustic tweet.

RT had opposed the registration, arguing that it would hinder its work in the USA and force it to make public information, including employees' addresses and salaries.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker in the Russian parliament, said: "What the U.S. authorities are doing today is an infringement of fundamental civil rights, of freedom of speech".

In October, Twitter announced it would no longer allow advertisements from RT and another Kremlin-backed news organization, citing intelligence that the television station participated in efforts to influence the election.

While RT America will comply with the DOJ's demand and register as a "foreign agent", the company will challenge the decision in court, Simonyan said.

The act was originally passed by Congress in 1938 due to concerns about German propaganda agents in the United States before World War II.

Foreign government-owned news organizations, including China Daily, the English-language newspaper owned by China's government, register under FARA.

FARA, which Congress passed in 1938 to combat Nazi propaganda, is meant "to ensure that the American public and our lawmakers know the source of information that is provided at the behest of a foreign principal, where that information may be intended to influence US public opinion, policy and laws", the DOJ said in its statement.

Numerous lawmakers have called upon RT to register as a foreign agent since the election.

While traveling in Asia, Trump touted the relationship between himself and Russian Federation and posted on Twitter that improved relations with the country would "a good thing, not a bad thing".

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