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RT Chief Editor’s Complaints About U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) Examined

Margarita Simonyan

Margarita Simonyan

RT Editor-in-Chief

"To date, we have not experienced such active pressure and literally an expulsion from the country, as we do in the United States."

FARA does not affect media content or work conditions
“…active pressure and literally an expulsion from the country…”

Margarita Simonyan’s latest complaint refers in particular to a letter RT received from the U.S. Department of Justice demanding that the broadcasting company she leads, which is fully funded by the Russian government, register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

Requiring a foreign media outlet to register as an agent of a foreign nation does not give the U.S. government the right to censor its output or control its working environment. FARA simply requires transparency and public disclosure on the part of those registered.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s most recent FARA report to the U.S. Congress, there are at least seven foreign media groups registered as foreign agents in the U.S.:

  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation;
  • Two Chinese media groups: the Daily Distribution Corporation and the People's Daily Overseas Edition;
  • The German Deutsche Telecom;
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel;
  • The Japanese broadcaster JNG Shareholders Group;
  • The Korean Broadcasting System;

None of the above have ever complained about “experiencing active pressure” or being “literally expelled” by the U.S. government.

The registration process for the Foreign Agent Registration Act requires filling out and submitting three forms:

  • Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended;
  • Exhibit A to Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended;
  • Exhibit B to Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended;

An applicant is required to provide information on the nature of its activities, the name of any “foreign principal” on whose behalf they are working (meaning foreign governments, political parties, organizations or individuals), a statement on the ownership and control of the applicant, and financial information (including contributions, income and money received).

“To date, we have not experienced…”

In Great Britain, RT has been the target of 15 probes by Ofcom, the UK media regulatory body, for breaching codes and standards on impartiality and unbiased reporting, and for broadcasting materially misleading content. In November 2104, Ofcom announced that it was putting RT "on notice that any future breaches of the due impartiality rules may result in further regulatory action, including consideration of a statutory sanction."

During a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in 2012, then Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reportedly complained about “anti-Israel propaganda” being broadcast by RT.

Ukraine banned RT in August 2014 for “deliberately inciting hatred and discord among Ukrainian citizens.”

In August 2015, Spain’s BBVA bank blocked payments to RT after the European Union imposed sanctions on Russian officials over Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine.

In October 2016, Britain’s NatWest bank, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, froze RT’s bank accounts in the UK.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution in 2015 calling RT “Russia’s main international media weapon.” A counter-propaganda group called EastStratCom Task Force was subsequently created and an EU vs Disinformation website launched.

This past April, the campaign team of Emmanuel Macron, then still a candidate for French president, banned RT and its counterpart Sputnik from campaign events, accusing it of seeking to spread “fake news and false information.”