World News

Russia Acts to Name US Media as 'Foreign Agents' in RT Dispute

Russia Acts to Name US Media as 'Foreign Agents' in RT Dispute

The Justice Department set a deadline of November 13 for RT to register as a foreign agency based on accusations that the Russian government-funded cable news network and website was a Kremlin propaganda outlet. "In relation to websites of foreign mass media, which are not registered in Russian Federation as mass media but which spread public, socially significant information, these measures also will apply", state news agency Tass quoted Alexander Zharov, head of the government's media oversight agency Roskomnadzor, as saying.

On Thursday, RT Managing Director Alexey Nikolov said at a meeting of the Provisional Commission of Russia's Federation Council (upper house of parliament) on Information Policy and Media Interaction that he had not registered as a foreign agent in the United States within the period of time set by the USA authorities.

On Thursday, Margarita Simonya, RT's chief editor, said that the outlet will give in to U.S. Justice Department demands that it register as a foreign agent by Monday.

On its Facebook page, the Russian embassy in the USA said it took the move to mean that the United States is pursuing a "path of conscious deterioration of relations", and that it considers the registration requirement to be "a desire to eliminate the source of alternative information, an unacceptable violation of worldwide standards of press freedom".

The Kremlin-funded channel denies assertions by US intelligence agencies that it acted as a propaganda arm of the Russian government in efforts to influence last year's presidential election. "Since such decisions are being made on USA territory in relation to our TV channels, it will be right for us to respond to these actions".

FARA requires registration "if an agent disseminates informational materials, by mail or by any means or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce, and intends the materials to be disseminated among two or more persons". Failure to register could result in the seizure of RT's USA bank accounts and the arrest of the senior editor, Simonyan told Russian news outlets.

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RT denies that it is an agent of the Russian government and says on its site that it offers "stories overlooked by mainstream media" and "alternative perspectives".

Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that he would sign such a law last month, when he told a conference of foreign policy scholars that Russia would respond immediately and reciprocally to "any efforts to limit our mass media".

Last Thursday, Twitter announced it would drop advertising by RT and Sputnik-owned accounts on its network due to their alleged meddling in the USA presidential election previous year.

The Russian law on foreign agents in recent years has been used on nongovernmental groups that do not toe the Kremlin party line.

In the past, the ministry also has mentioned CNN, which does not receive USA government funds, but is a frequent target of criticism by the Russian government for what it says is anti-Russian bias in its reporting.


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