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    Daily Beast Reports Sputnik Registers as Foreign Agent - Except it Hasn’t

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    A new article on The Daily Beast reports that Sputnik Radio has registered as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice (DOJ). The only problem? Sputnik has done no such thing, and The Daily Beast has either recklessly or maliciously misinterpreted the relevant DOJ document.

    The Daily Beast's article certainly had a juicy headline: "Russian-Owned Sputnik Registers as Foreign Agent After Taking Over DC Bluegrass Station." But the headline simply isn't true: Sputnik is not registered as a foreign agent. Sputnik has never been asked to register as a foreign agent. The headline is, quite simply, fake news.

    The headline was quickly changed to "Sputnik's US Broadcaster Registers as Foreign Agent After Russians Take Over Bluegrass Station," after we called The Daily Beast and informed them that their headline was pure fiction. However, the text of the article, which supports their sham of a story, still hammers the same point as before: Sputnik has registered as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We haven't.

    Screenshot of The Daily Beast article, Russian-Owned Sputnik Registers as Foreign Agent After Taking Over D.C. Bluegrass Station by Lachlan Markay. Sputnik has not registered as a foreign agent.
    Screenshot of The Daily Beast article, "Russian-Owned Sputnik Registers as Foreign Agent After Taking Over D.C. Bluegrass Station" by Lachlan Markay. Sputnik has not registered as a foreign agent.
    The updated Daily Beast headline, Sputnik's U.S. Broadcaster Registers as Foreign Agent After Russians Take Over Bluegrass Station. This is almost accurate, in the most technical, incendiary, and sensationalist sense.
    The updated Daily Beast headline, "Sputnik's U.S. Broadcaster Registers as Foreign Agent After Russians Take Over Bluegrass Station". This is almost accurate, in the most technical, incendiary, and sensationalist sense.

    "This story has been updated to clarify that it is Sputnik's U.S. broadcasting arm — not Sputnik itself — which is registering as a foreign agent," reads The Daily Beast's correction, which is also not true.

    The article claims that Sputnik Radio filed paperwork with the Department of Justice on Wednesday to register as a foreign agency following Sputnik's "take over" of a broadcast company based out of Reston, Virginia.

    What The Daily Beast neglects to mention is that, were one to actually read the Department of Justice brief attached to their article, it is not "Sputnik" or "Sputnik Radio" or "Rossiya Segodnya" in the line marked "Name and Address of Registrant." It is instead a company called "Reston Translator, LLC".

    Reston Translator, LLC is a broadcast company in Northern Virginia that leased an FM station they owned, 105.5 FM, to Radio Sputnik in June. The Daily Beast calls this a "take over." Ordinary people call it "business".

    In other words, Reston Translator, LLC registered with the DOJ as a company that is doing business with a foreign principal, that being Sputnik's parent company, International News Agency Rossiya Segodnya. Presumably the DOJ waited five months to do this in an attempt to frighten Reston Translator and broadcast companies like it out of doing business with those pesky Russians.

    To sum up: Radio Sputnik leased airtime from broadcaster Reston Translator. The DOJ, in what we can only assume to be a punitive tactic, compelled Reston Translator to register as a company doing business with a foreign principal, Rossiya Segodnya. The Daily Beast acquired the filing and either unknowingly or maliciously interpreted it to mean that Sputnik was registered as a foreign agent.

    At no point did The Daily Beast contact Sputnik to ask us, simply, "did you register as a foreign agent?" That way, we could have told them "nope!"

    In an inspirational display of journalistic integrity, The Daily Beast quoted scathing remarks by Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Sputnik and RT, about RT being all-but-forced to register as a foreign agent on Monday. The article doesn't make it clear that Simonyan's comments were about RT's registration, not Sputnik's (since, for the umpteenth time, Sputnik has not registered as a foreign agent.)

    The article also mentions Moscow's reprisal for the DOJ imposition by replying in kind, passing a law imposing "foreign agent" status on Washington-owned outlets such as Radio Free Europe.

    The Daily Beast quotes Amnesty International official Denis Krivosheev who calls the legislation "a serious blow to what was already a fairly desperate situation for press freedom in Russia." No mention is made of the fact that groups such as The Committee to Protect Journalists called the DOJ's edict to RT a serious blow for press freedom in the USA.

    And for what it's worth, Bluegrass Country, the musical program that used to broadcast from 105.5 FM, tweeted on Friday that Sputnik hadn't booted them from America's airwaves. They are still broadcasting, just on another station.

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    Tags:
    fake news, Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), Reston Translator, LLC, Radio Sputnik, The Daily Beast, Department of Justice, Sputnik, RT, Rossiya Segodnya, Margarita Simonyan
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