The Department of Justice announced that the owners of the Russian state-owned network RT must register as a foreign agent, suggesting all their content would be labelled as Russian propaganda.
To date, media organizations have largely been exempt from registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which focuses primarily on political consultants, lobbyists and public relations professionals working for foreign states.
Registration would not halt RT from broadcasting in the U.S., but would require regularly-submitted government paperwork listing sources of revenue from foreign governments and contacts within the United States. The Act also would require any reporting to be labeled as financed by the Russian government.
Failing to file the paperwork would be a felony.
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen said of the Justice probe, “We can’t allow foreign agents, particularly those working on behalf of our adversaries, to skirt our laws. Every new revelantion about Russia’s use of propaganda to influence the 2016 election further highlights the need of the federal government to bolster its enforcement of FARA.”
The U.S. intelligence community issued a report in January calling RT a “state-run propaganda machine.” It said the network “has positioned itself as a domestic U.S. channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian Government.”
The Foreign Agents Registration Act was enacted prior to World War II in an initial effort to combat Nazi propaganda intended to sway American public sentiment.