US senator wants to probe RT as a ‘foreign agent’… What’s next, public executions?
“At such pace they’ll soon start shooting our journalists at the squares. Greetings to Senator McCarthy from Senator Shaheen,” RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, drawing parallels with an old school Cold War witch-hunt straight from the 1950s.
The proposed amendment to the Foreign Agents Registration Act dubbed the “Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act,” is touted as a response to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. The bill would provide the Justice Department with additional powers to demand organizations to disclose their suspected foreign connections and the sources of its funding.
FARA is an old legislation dating back to 1930s, which requires “political and quasi-political” agents representing the interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationship with foreign governments and funding sources. FARA, however, does not restrict the activities of a foreign media, as it’s protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, ensuring freedom of speech.
“We have good reason to believe that RT News is coordinating with the Russian government to spread misinformation and undermine our democratic process,” Shaheen said in a statement. “The American public has a right to know if this is the case.”
While RT being a Russian state-funded news outlet is common knowledge, Senator Shaheen presented this fact as something requiring additional investigation. However, numerous foreign state-owned media outlets, operating in the US, which include the BBC, France24, and DW, do not seem to bother Senator Shaheen. All of them openly proclaim promoting their country’s values (BBC) or vision (France24), while a Russian perspective is for some reason perceived as being vile “propaganda” and a “foreign influence.”
Senator Shaheen also claimed that RT had “boasted it can dodge our laws with shell corporations” without substantiating any of these supposedly “public statements.”
To expose RT’s alleged wrongdoings, the Senator cited US “intelligence reports,” namely the notorious and widely ridiculed 25-page document from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
The report was supposed to be devoted to the alleged “Russian hacking,” but instead and to a great extent, focused on Russian media coverage of the US elections. It rehashed a lot of old unsubstantiated accusations against RT, but did not specify how exactly it could have “influenced” the “democratic process.”
The proposed legislation although unlikely to advance has already attracted a great deal of skepticism, with some Tweeting that the bill was just a new way to distract American citizens from the real and important issues.
In recent months, attacks against Russian media outlets have been on the rise from US and European officials and MSM, who have been branding virtually any messages conveyed by Moscow as “propaganda” that needs to be tackled.
Last December, former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, called for RT and Sputnik to be branded as “foreign agents” over their alleged “involvement” in the US presidential elections, claiming that the media outlets “campaigned” for Donald Trump. McFaul did not provide any proof for his accusations and he clearly did not pay much attention to our coverage of the campaign to make such an assumption.
Former US State Department spokesman John Kirby in November refused to answer a question from an RT journalist at a press briefing, adding that he would not view RT employees at the same level as other media. Kirby has also expressed similar attitude to the Sputnik news agency. Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman called the “outrageous” press briefing incident a “new form of segregation.”
The European Parliament also made a move against “hostile propaganda” by adopting a resolution that bizarrely places Russian news on the same security threat list with brutal beheading and mass murder videos by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists and other jihadist groups.