Russian Federation targets U.S. media in row over RT registration

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

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.

"All actions of American media outlets indicate that their policy and positions are totally unfriendly and that this interference is absolutely undisguised", Volodin said.

He recalled that the US Department of Justice had sent a written notification to the TV channel's top officials regarding the need to become a foreign agent by October 17. "So, the law should provide that media, recognized by foreign agents, indicate the relevant information on these pages", Tolstoy said. He stressed that foreign agent status could be very unsafe for RT staff and all those who interact with this TV channel.

The U.S. action against RT was taken after U.S. intelligence agencies accused Russian Federation of trying to interfere in last year's U.S. presidential election to help President Donald Trump win the White House, something Moscow has denied.

On Thursday, Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the upper house's Commission on Information Policy and Interaction with Media, held a meeting to discuss the USA move and possible retaliatory steps, a Federation Council statement said. It would require RT to label anything it produces - making it clear its reports are distributed on behalf of the Russian state. "It deprives us of fair competition with other worldwide channels, which are not registered as foreign agents".

She added: "We will continue to work and continue to fight this as long as it's possible".

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".

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"Reciprocal measures will be taken to impose the same limitations that Americans are trying to impose on Russian media based on the 1938 law on foreign agents", Tolstoi said.

Last Thursday, Twitter announced it would drop advertising by RT and Sputnik-owned accounts on its network due to their alleged meddling in the US presidential election past year.

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 unsafe precedent".

An intelligence report in January alleged the outlet spearheaded "strategic messaging for [the] Russian government", fueling political conflicts in the USA during the 2016 campaign.

The assessment also said RT America "has positioned itself as a domestic US channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian government, " but behind the scenes, "the Kremlin staffs RT and closely supervises RT's coverage, recruiting people who can convey Russian strategic messaging due to their ideological beliefs". Memorial, one of Russia's oldest human rights groups, which has for three decades sought to expose Soviet mass killings and arrests, and the Levada Center, an independent polling agency, were registered as foreign agents by Russia's Ministry of Justice.

The speaker of the State Duma, Russia's lower house, Friday asked the house committees to prepare a legislative response to the "U.S. pressure on Russian media". The organizations have disputed the decision.

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