Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Russian parliament mulls response to USA move on RT

Zurab Dzhavakhadze  TASS Zurab Dzhavakhadze TASS
Lillian Steele | 11 November, 2017, 01:22

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. 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.

Zakharova did not specify which outlets would be targeted or what the actions would be. It's been revealed that Russian agents used U.S-based social media platforms to spread false information created to help boost Donald Trump's candidacy, and several people involved in President Trump's campaign are being investigated by the Justice Department over possible collusion with Russia. He stressed that foreign agent status could be very risky for RT staff and all those who interact with this TV channel.

US intelligence agencies said in January that RT and the news agency Sputnik, along with a network of "quasi-government trolls", interfered in the 2016 USA presidential election on behalf of the Russian government by pushing anti-American propaganda, claims that RT denies.

The threat of retaliation against US media from the Kremlin is the latest in a diplomatic standoff that has resulted in both Moscow and Washington being forced to reduce embassy staff and give up diplomatic compounds. It would require RT to label anything it produces - making it clear its reports are distributed on behalf of the Russian state. In short, in this situation the company would not be able to work.

Charities and other civil society groups operating in Russian Federation have to register as "foreign agents" if they get any foreign funding.

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".

"Reciprocal measures will be put in place to ensure the same restrictions as the Americans are now trying to impose on Russian media outlets", Tolstoy said. 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.

In a statement posted to its Facebook account Thursday night, the Russian Embassy in the United States said the Justice Department's decision "created a risky precedent". The Justice Department declined to comment to The Associated Press.

USA intelligence agencies in January described RT America TV as "a Kremlin-financed channel operated from within the United States, (which) has substantially expanded its repertoire of programming that highlights criticism of alleged US shortcomings in democracy and civil liberties". The decision came in the wake of investigations into Kremlin attempts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.

The status, which applies to several state-owned outlets operating in the US including Japan's NHK and the China Daily newspaper, requires disclosure of the media organization's foreign funding.

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

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