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Russia's RT Registers Under U.S. Foreign-Agents Law

Russia's state-funded RT television network has registered in the United States under a decades-old law intended to limit foreign governments from spreading propaganda in the country

The filing from RT’s American operating unit, T&R Productions LLC, was dated November 10 and was acknowledged by the Justice Department late on November 13.

"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," U.S. acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente said, in the department's first comment on the matter.

While RT had protested the registration requirement as an abandonment of the U.S. constitutional guarantee of press freedom, Boente said asking agents of foreign governments to disclose basic information about themselves to the public "does not inhibit freedom of expression [and] does not restrict the content of information disseminated."

RT officials first disclosed the department's request that the channel comply with the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), which requires people working in the United States for a foreign government in a "political or quasi-political capacity" to register.

A report from U.S. intelligence agencies in January said that RT and the website called Sputnik spread misinformation as part of a Russian-government effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

In the run-up to the filing, Russian lawmakers and Foreign Ministry officials repeatedly complained about the pressure, and warned of retaliation against U.S. media in Russia, including RFE/RL.

"Forced to choose between a criminal case and registration, we chose the latter. And we congratulate American freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it," RT's editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan, said in a Twitter post on November 13.

RT joins at least six other foreign media outlets that are currently registered under FARA, including Canada's CBC, Japan's NHK, and the China Daily.

In Moscow, one senior Russian lawmaker said parliament was drafting legislation under which some foreign media could be deemed "foreign agents" in Russia.

Andrei Isayev delivers a speech at a French National Front congress in Lyon in 2014.+

Source: RFEL.