WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc., the media company which broadcasts Radio Sputnik on AM frequencies in the United States, has received notice from the Justice Department about its possible need to register as a foreign agent, along with a request for with additional information, pending its decision.
This was said in a letter from the US Department of Justice to MRBI, a copy of which has been obtained by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.
"Given these circumstances, MRBI may be required to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA)," according to the letter signed by chief of the FARA unit at the DOJ Heather Hunt.
If it is forced to register as a foreign agent, MRBI will become the second company engaged in broadcasting Radio Sputnik in the US to do so. In its letter, the Justice Department noted that Radio Sputnik partner Reston Translator, which transmits Radio Sputnik on FM frequencies, has already been registered as a foreign agent.
Sputnik News itself, working with many companies around the world, has not registered as a foreign agent in the US, and US authorities have not made an official request for it to do so.
The Justice Department has given MRBI 30 days to provide documents regarding its properties, a description of its work, and an account of the services it has provided to Sputnik or to any other related or foreign organization, as well as a copy of its agreement with Radio Sputnik and any other related or foreign organizations. It has also asked the company to answer a series of questions related to program origin, editorial control over content and funding.
Last month, the Justice Department entered RT America into its list of foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. Other foreign media, including the UK's BBC, China's CCTV, France's France24, and Germany's Deutsche Welle Radio USA have not had to register as such. RT has also been denied accreditation to the US Congress. RT and Sputnik editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan explained that the broadcaster was forced to choose between registration and a criminal case, and congratulated America for its "freedom of speech and everyone who still believes in it."
In response to the US move, the Russian Ministry of Justice listed nine American state-funded media companies as foreign agents. These include Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and the TV channel Nastoyashchee Vremya. RFE regional services Idel.Reallii, Kavkaz.Reallii, Krym.Reallii, Sibir.Realii, the Tatar-Bashkir Service of Radio Liberty, and Faktograph have also been forced to register.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an amended law on the status of foreign agents in the media late last week. Under the law, media which receive financial assistance from foreign states or organizations can be recognized as foreign agents. Moscow says the amendments to the law on the status of foreign agent media were a forced response to the harassment of Russian media in the US.