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24 Dec, 2017 00:47

Libertarians slam US ‘arbitrary censorship’ of foreign media & alternative views

Libertarians slam US ‘arbitrary censorship’ of foreign media & alternative views

The DOJ demand for RT America to register as a foreign agent is an attempt to silence undesired voices, the Libertarian Party has said, echoing views that the move is the worst attack on press freedom since the McCarthy era.

Forcing RT America to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) under the pretext of its alleged links to perceived Russian meddling in the US 2016 elections, de facto amounts to government “censorship,” the party said in a statement. US government officials are using FARA “in an effort to silence views they don’t like,” it said further.

On Thursday, it was revealed by DOJ official Adam Hickey that the Department based its decision regarding RT America on the controversial report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) dating back to January. Riddled with factual inaccuracies and not providing any hard evidence, the report also featured a quite hollow 7-page annex devoted to RT.

Hickey also outrageously disputed that RT America was somehow forced to register under FARA, claiming, instead, that it was a “voluntary decision” by the channel.

“Freedom of speech, especially political speech, is essential to a free society,” said Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark. “It doesn’t matter if some of that speech is sponsored by people in other countries.” The party said freedom of the media should be “sacrosanct” in the US, considering the “explicit protection for the rights to speak and publish guaranteed in the First Amendment.”

The party further pointed out that US State Department officials were openly selective in targeting the foreign media that operate on US soil. “The BBC isn’t subject to US government harassment because it’s owned by the United Kingdom. France 24, Deutsche Welle, and Al Jazeera all have a longstanding American presence despite funding by foreign governments,” the statement says.

Given the fact that FARA itself “specifically excludes ‘any news or press service’ with primary interests in the United States,” the whole issue with the DOJ's demand for RT America registration as a foreign agent looks like a “flimsy pretext for the use of government power to prevent a particular editorial viewpoints from being heard,” the Libertarians said. “The marketplace of ideas can’t function when some people’s views are pushed aside by an arbitrary government ruling,” said Sarwark. “No matter how controversial some ideas may be, though, the government’s ability to silence them is a far larger threat to freedom.”

Earlier this year, the DOJ forced a company servicing RT America to register under FARA by November 13. Despite US assurances the move won’t “impact or affect” the channel’s ability to report news, the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio & Television Correspondents Galleries soon withdrew RT America’s press credentials.

FARA was adopted in 1938 to initially counter pro-Nazi agitation on US soil. Its website says the legislation exists so “the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence US public opinion, policy, and laws.”

“This is the worst assault on press freedom since the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s,” said Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and former professor at Princeton University, referring to the McCarthyism practice that swept the US in the middle of the 20th century. The host of RT’s weekly interview show, ‘On Contact,’ Hedges believes it's all part of a policy aimed at silencing those who criticize the US government and its policies.

RT America provides a “platform” to critics of American capitalism and imperialism and those “who denounce a system of corporate government that can no longer be called democratic,” Hedges said. He noted that Google, Facebook and Twitter, apparently, is also part of this persecution, and that their policies “divert readers away from left-wing, progressive and anti-war websites.”

“This censorship campaign against left-wing critics, already marginalized and attacked as foreign agents by the state, presages an effort to silence all dissent. The driving ideology of the corporate state, neoliberalism and globalization, no longer has any credibility,” Hedges added.