One year after the 2016 United States Presidential Election, Kremlin-funded news outlet RT has registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act following pressure from the U.S. government. A U.S. intelligence report from January 2017 reports that Sputnik and RT spread pro-Trump propaganda across their platforms during election time.
The Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, was implemented by the United States in 1938 in order to prevent the spread of Nazi propaganda. This act aims to allow American citizens to know whether the media they are being exposed to is being funded by a foreign source. An example of FARA being used for foreign agents can be seen through the registration of KBS America. KBS America was first registered with FARA in 2005 due to their ties to South Korea.
Above is KBS America's mission statement as shown on their official website.
The addition of RT on the FARA raises questions over whether other countries around the globe will start requiring foreign news outlets to register with their own media. Some foreign media sources that are currently registered with FARA include Canada's CBC, Japan's NHK, and the China Daily.
Russia’s media is highly controlled by their government as seen in the overwhelming amount of support for Putin in the upcoming March 2018 Russian election. In 2012, Russia began requiring any news outlets that were funded by foreign media to register as foreign agents. The Russian Foreign Agent Law was enacted following mass Putin protests throughout Russia.
American news outlet Bloomberg covered the deputy speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstory’s announcing of additional information on the Russian Foreign Agent Law. He states, “Media that fail to comply with demands to register as ‘foreign agents’ under the law will be banned from working in Russia.” Kremlin-funded media outlets aim to censor out any stories which could lower support for Putin in the upcoming 2018 Russian election.
RT staff has been verbal about their resentment towards FARA, especially editor in chief Margarita Simonyan. Shown to the right is a screenshot of Simonyan’s tweet following RT’s FARA registration stating, “Forced to choose between a criminal case and registration, we chose the latter. And we congratulate American freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it."
Putin is not in favor of the registration as he does not believe RT poses a threat to freedom of speech. The News Tribune found that, “Putin has harshly criticized the U.S. demand regarding the RT channel as an attack on freedom of speech. He said Russia would retaliate.” Although Putin has passed legislation about Russian Foreign Agents, he continues to disapprove of the U.S. FARA.