MOSCOW/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Kremlin-backed television station RT America registered Monday with the U.S. Department of Justice as a “foreign agent” in the United States, the outlet’s editor in chief said and the Department of Justice confirmed later in the day.
U.S. intelligence agencies said in a report in January that the television station, which broadcasts on cable in the United States, is “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine” and that it contributed to the Kremlin’s campaign to interfere with last year’s presidential election in favour of Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.
After that report, the Department of Justice insisted that RT America comply with registration requirements under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). Under the act, RT will be required to disclose financial information.
Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations of election meddling and said it views the actions against RT as an unfriendly act.
But RT’s editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan, said on Monday that it would comply with the demand in order to avoid further legal action by the U.S. government.
“Between a criminal case and registration, we chose the latter. We congratulate American freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it,” Simonyan said on Twitter.
The Department of Justice confirmed that it received a registration from T&R Productions LLC, which has operated studios for RT, hired and paid U.S.-based employees and produced English-language programming.
“Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals,” said acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente.
In October, Twitter announced it would no longer allow advertisements from RT and another Kremlin-backed news organization, citing intelligence that the television station participated in efforts to influence the election.
FARA requires foreign governments, political parties and the lobbyists and public relations firms they hire in the United States to register with the Department of Justice. FARA was first passed in 1938 in the lead up to World War Two in an effort to combat German propaganda efforts.
Foreign government-owned news organizations, including China Daily, the English-language newspaper owned by China’s government, register under FARA. The law applies to companies that are owned or controlled by foreign governments.
The United States and Russia are engaged in a back-and-forth over “foreign agent” registration.
Russia’s parliament warned on Friday that some U.S. and other foreign media could also be declared “foreign agents” in response to the actions against RT, requiring them to regularly declare full details of their funds, financing and staffing.
U.S. government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), CNN and Germany’s Deutsche Welle could all be affected by the retaliatory measures, a senior Russian lawmaker said earlier on Monday.
While travelling in Asia, Trump touted the relationship between himself and Russia and posted on Twitter that improved relations with the country would “a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Reporting by Jack Stubbs in Moscow and Ginger Gibson in Washington; Editing by Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker