They’re complying with a World War II era-law that was passed to fight Nazi propaganda.
Russia’s state-owned media outlet, RT, has announced that it will comply with US government demands to register as a “foreign agent” of the Russian government, amid controversy over Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
It’s a move that effectively marks the network, which runs both a website and a cable television channel, as a propaganda outfit for Moscow.
“The American Justice Department has left us with no choice,” Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, said in a statement on Thursday. “Our lawyers say that if we don’t register as a foreign agent, the director of our company in America could be arrested, and the accounts of the company could be seized.”
RT, which began as Russia Today in 2005, is headquartered in Moscow, with English-language studios in Washington, DC, and Europe. Its critics in the US have long argued that its critical and conspiratorial coverage of the American government is motivated by the Kremlin’s geopolitical interests.
Russian officials are furious about the development, and Russian President Vladimir Putin promised last month to reciprocate by placing restrictions on American media outlets in Russia. A senior lawmaker in Russia said on Friday that legislators plan to change regulations on foreign media in order to do so.
RT’s coverage aggressively pushes a pro-Kremlin viewpoint
US intelligence agencies and Russia experts have long argued that RT’s coverage of American politics and current affairs appear to be driven by Moscow’s political agenda. In January, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that identified RT as a primary source of propaganda in the US that was intended to advance Russian interests.