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RT forced to register as a foreign agent in the U.S. – A N I T H
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RT forced to register as a foreign agent in the U.S.

RT forced to register as a foreign agent in the U.S.


Image: KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

The company that owns Moscow-based media outlet RT just registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Department of Justice.

T&R Productions, LLC filed paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) registering as an agent for a Russian government entity, according to the DOJ. This entity, ANO TV-Novosti, is responsible for worldwide broadcasts of the Russian government-funded English-language TV network. 

RT reported in September that T&R Productions had received a letter from the DOJ demanding it to register as a foreign agent. The D.C.-based corporation is responsible for the production and operations of RT America. It has operated studios, hired and paid U.S. employees, and produced programming for the Russian network.

FARA requires public disclosure of certain activities and relationships through registration by “agents of foreign principals” with the DOJ. According to the Justice Department, the 1938 law does not “limit publishing of materials or viewpoints;” it just mandates registration, labeling of “informational materials and broadcasts,” and “record keeping.”

“Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing FARA and expects compliance with the law by all entities engaged in specified activities on behalf of any foreign principal, regardless of its nationality.”

RT has not been shy about its bias. It has been accused by some of serving as a Russian propaganda outlet, prompted by its distribution of pro-Russian media, such as ads attacking the U.S. for allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

In the publicly-available registration paperwork, T&R Productions “respectfully disagrees that FARA should apply” and says that its programs “are not aimed to primarily benefit any foreign government or political party.

The Russian outlet’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan tweeted about the registration, explaining RT’s decision and taking a dig at American civil liberties. 

“Between a criminal case and registration, we chose the latter,” Simonyan said. “We congratulate American freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it.”

Speaking of press freedom, this could lead to major retaliation by Russia. After the DOJ notified RT of its intentions, the Russian embassy in the U.S. wrote in a statement on Facebook that “the American authorities have…created a dangerous precedent” by requesting a Russian outlet to register as a foreign agent. 

The Russian embassy threatens an “immediate symmetrical response” to “any measures limiting activity of the Russian mass media in the United States.” 

Some journalists in America articulated their fears surrounding this broken precedent in international press relations. 

Russian-language outlet Meduza reports that deputies in the State Duma are drafting legislation that would apply Russia’s foreign agents law to news media outlets, including CNN, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, and Radio Liberty. 

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Anith Gopal
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