Congress is using a decades-old piece of legislation to force Russia Today to register as a foreign agent in the US, adding that if the site doesn’t comply with the order by Monday, the DOJ could move to shutter its operations and arrest its top executive, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.
Russia Today revealed Thursday that the Department of Justice has given the site until next week to comply with its new interpretation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). RT has been operating in the US since 2005.
While undoubtedly disappointing in terms of its implications for first amendment freedoms in the US, the DOJ’s declaration is hardly a surprise. Under pressure from lawmakers, Twitter last month said it would prohibit RT from buying paid ads on its platform.
The FARA was adopted in the US in 1938 to counter pro-Nazi agitation . Washington has decided to apply the act towards the company that supplies all services for RT America on its territory, including TV production and operations. Just over 400 entities are currently registered under the legislation, though that group doesn’t include a single media outlet.
RT revealed Thursday that the DOJ sent a letter to the company in September saying it is obligated to register under FARA due to the work it does for RT. Most alarmingly, the law demands the disclosure of the channel’s confidential data, including the personal data of its staff.
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The move “will have serious legal consequences”and “compromise the safety of [RT] employees,” the Russian Foreign Ministry previously explained.
Simonyan said on Thursday that the timeframe provided for the company by the DOJ is a “cannibalistic deadline.” She previously said that the channel was being forced into “conditions in which we cannot work” in the US, and called Washington’s demand an attempt to “drive [RT] out of the country.”