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RT: Only Foreign Media to Register as 'Foreign Agent' in US
The U.S. Department of Justice has cracked down on the Russian media outlet, threatening arrests and asset seizures if the outlet does not comply with demands.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has decided to apply the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to Russia Today (RT) America, a branch of the Russian news agency stationed in Washington D.C., demanding that the agency register as a foreign agent or face reprimands.
RT America’s head in Washington could face arrest and the agency’s accounts could be frozen if it does not register by Monday.
The company was sent a letter in September from the DOJ claiming that it must register as a foreign agent because of its affiliation with the Russian government. This would require RT to forfeit confidential information to the U.S. government, including its employee’s personal data.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that this "will have serious legal consequences" and would "compromise the safety of [RT] employees.”
While the agency has agreed to comply with the government’s request, they have vowed to fight this registration in court.
Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of both RT and the Russian outlet Sputnik, called this action by the U.S. government “illegal.”
"But we are forced to submit," Simonyan said in an interview. She added that the application of this federal law would make "routine journalistic work impossible."
The FARA was originally enacted in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi groups in the U.S. that posed a threat to the country during World War II. The U.S. has now forced RT America to register under this legislation, making
RT America the only media outlet registered under the act at present.
Other state-funded media operate within the U.S., such as Al-Jazeera and BBC’s U.S. branches, without having to register as foreign agents.
"The war the U.S. establishment wages with our journalists is dedicated to all the starry-eyed idealists who still believe in freedom of speech. Those who invented it, have buried it," Simonyan said.
“We believe that the demand does not only go against the law, and we will prove it in court – the demand is discriminative, it contradicts both the democracy and freedom of speech principles. It deprives us of fair competition with other international channels, which are not registered as foreign agents.”
Sputnik has also been under scrutiny, as Andrew Feinberg, the agency’s disgruntled former White House correspondent, was found to have provided the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with thousands of internal emails and documents from the agency. The FBI has since been investigating this matter.
Sputnik's U.S. editor-in-chief, Mindia Gavasheli said in a statement that these revelations are unsurprising "since the atmosphere of hysteria in relation to everything that belongs to Russia has been created in the country, and everything with the word 'Russian' is seen through the prism of spy mania."
"We are journalists, and mostly Americans work here," the statement continued. "We believe that any assumption that we are engaged in anything other than journalism is an absolute lie and fabrication."
The application of FARA comes after alleged ‘Russian interference’ in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A joint U.S. intelligence report compiled by the FBI, National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), accused RT and Sputnik of attacking Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, and attempting to influence the election in favor of (now) President Donald Trump.
Social media outlets, such as Twitter, have been under pressure from the U.S. Congress to impose heavier restrictions on ads and content produced by Russian media outlets, specifically targeting RT and Sputnik.
The Russian Federation Council Committee on State Sovereignty recently compiled a list of five major U.S. media outlets that were in consideration for ‘blacklisting’ in a reciprocal measure for restrictions on Russian media.
“If they take control of [Russian] employees’ personal data, we will take control of the corresponding foreign media employees’ personal data,” Russian Senator Oleg Morozov said.
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