Escalating tensions with Russia have had lasting repercussions on U.S. foreign policy in the last year. The latest move sees Russia Today (RT), a state owned news agency, classified as a foreign agent. The group now has to register with the Justice Department and their content will be labeled as propaganda.
The move from the Department of Justice (DOJ) requires that RT register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a move which is not sitting well with the news agency.
“The war the US 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,” Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, said.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act usually covers consultants, or lobbyists or people in pubic relations, and not news agencies.
As The Hill reports, “the registration would not stop the organization from operating, but requires regularly submitted paperwork that lists its sources of foreign government-tied revenue and the contacts it makes in the United States, and it would require any reporting to be labeled as being influenced or financed by the Russian government.”
Some in the U.S. point to RT America’s role in the 2016 presidential election. A report from the U.S. intelligence community called RT a “state-run propaganda machine. ” The report concluded that RT “has positioned itself as a domestic U.S channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian Government.”
The report claims RT “actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.”
This could very well mark the beginning of a larger crack-down. Sputnik, another Russian news agency, is currently being investigated. And the move will likely see similar actions from Russia. Voice of America, which is funded by the U.S. government, will likely be expelled from Russia.
In an interesting note, The Hill adds that “The Foreign Agents Registration Act is a World War II-era law, enacted to thwart Nazi propaganda from coming into the United States to sway American public sentiment and U.S. policy.”
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), are currently working on a more comprehensive overhaul of the Foreign Agents Registration Act that will increase its role in national security.
Shaheen (below with Hillary Clinton) on Monday released a statement about the investigations into Russian news outlets.
“I’m very encouraged that the FBI is investigating the Sputnik news agency, which is funded by the Russian government. We can’t allow foreign agents, particularly those working on behalf of our adversaries, to skirt our laws,” Shaheen said. “Every new revelation about Russia’s use of propaganda to influence the 2016 election further highlights the need for the federal government to bolster its enforcement of FARA.”