The ongoing campaign in the US seeks to have RT registered as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 piece of legislation adopted to counter Nazi Germany, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova stated on Thursday.
“Applying the FARA to RT will have serious legal consequences, and will also compromise the safety of its employees. It demands disclosure of the channel’s confidential data, including the list of employees and their personal data. In the witch hunt atmosphere which has been established in the US, this provision may pose a real danger,” Maria Zakharova said during a weekly media briefing.
She said that the channel has been subjected to a campaign of persecution in the West. She cited RT’s prominent place in a declassified report by the US intelligence community, which assessed the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
“RT was mentioned in the report over 100 times, but not a single example of election interference was given,” she said. “They couldn’t find a single piece of ‘fake news’ broadcast by the Russian channel in the US. There was none.”
Compounding this is a report by the think-tank the Atlantic Council, in which it is suggested that Poland target RT to deter a Russian invasion. The think-tank is among the most vocal advocates of forcing RT to register as a foreign agent, Zakharova said.
The spokesperson noted that some media outlets operating in Russia receive funding from the US, but do not bother to register as foreign agents.
“If someone starts to fight dirty, perverting the law by using it as a tool to eradicate the TV station, every move aimed against the Russian media outlet would be repaid in kind. Washington should calculate carefully who the target of such a response may be,” she said.
Earlier in September the US Department of Justice sent a letter to a supply company which provides for the needs of RT America, the US-based branch of RT, demanding that it register under FARA. The move followed the introduction of a bill, by a bipartisan group of American lawmakers, which would broaden the scope of FARA to include RT.
Another Russian media outlet, the news agency Sputnik, is reportedly under FBI investigation centered on internal documents which were apparently leaked by a former White House correspondent for the agency after his dismissal, according to a Yahoo News report.
‘Attempt to prevent us from working in US’ – RT Editor-in-Chief
The push to have RT registered as a foreign agent is an attempt at an outright ban of the broadcaster in the US after all other attempts to silence it failed, RT Editor-in-Chief, Margarita Simonyan has said.
“They demand that we register as a foreign agent. This may lead to such restrictions that will simply prevent us from working in the country. This is the price of the praised freedom of speech, which our Western partners invented and then themselves buried with fanfare and music,” she added.
Simonyan said “there is no doubt that these decisions are politically motivated,” adding that the whole situation was “very sad.”
“There were attempts to tackle us in various ways for several years now as soon as our audience [figures] reached frightening proportions,” she noted.
A campaign to “ruin the reputation” of RT was followed by “people being put under critical pressure so that they won’t appear on air and stopped giving us interviews,” RT's Editor-in-Chief pointed out.
“When both approaches failed, they decided to apply an old-fashioned tool, well-tested by any regime, which they would themselves hurry to decry as dictatorship. Just ban it and that's all,” she said.
“This is what they’re doing, simply banning us,” Simonyan concluded.