Russian TV network RT (formerly Russia Today) has been ordered by the Department of Justice to register as a foreign agent by Monday or face serious consequences. RT has announced it will comply with the decision but says it will also fight it in court:
Washington will apply its Foreign Agents Registration Act to RT America, the channel has announced. The Department of Justice has given the broadcaster until Monday to register as a foreign agent, otherwise the channel’s head faces arrest and its accounts could be frozen…
RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said on Thursday that the timeframe provided for the company by the DoJ is a “cannibalistic deadline.” She previously said that the channel was being forced into “conditions in which we cannot work“ in the US, and called Washington’s demand an attempt to “drive [RT] out of the country.”
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. Refusing the order could result in the arrest of RT America’s head, as well as the seizure of assets, rendering broadcasts impossible, she added.
“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,” Simonyan said.
This is not the first deadline RT has been given by the DOJ. The DOJ first demanded RT register under FARA in a letter sent to the network in September. RT claimed it had been given an October 17th deadline but CNN reported last month that RT had missed the deadline and was planning to fight the requirement:
According to the network, the Department of Justice gave it an Oct. 17 deadline to register as a foreign agent. But according to publicly available DOJ filings, RT has not yet registered, and in a statement RT said it plans to fight back.
“Our legal team has been doing everything possible for RT to avoid having to register under FARA and the dialogue is ongoing. On their advice we are not discussing further details at this time,” RT head of communications Anna Belkina said in a statement.
At the time, Moscow warned that any action against Kremlin-controlled RT could be met with retaliation against U.S. based networks like CNN. Today, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson renewed that threat. The Associated Press reports Maria Zakharova told TASS news agency, “There is an understanding that the practical phase of putting these retaliatory measures into effect will begin next week.”
RT has been under pressure since an intelligence report published in January singled the network out saying it, “seeks to influence politics, [and] fuel discontent in the U.S.” That was also one of the major goals of the Russian social media campaign launched on Twitter and Facebook prior to the election.
Here’s an RT correspondent reporting on the DOJ demand earlier today.