MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, Michael McLeod-Bell, a first amendment adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said while the ACLU was generally supportive of FARA, he had concerns about how the Justice Department was changing its interpretation of the statute.
"We are glad to hear the lonely voice in support of the freedom of speech from the country that was once known for this liberty. I hope this reckless person will not receive tomorrow a demand to register as a foreign agent. I would not be surprised," RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan told Sputnik.
On November 13, RT America registered as a foreign agent in the United States under FARA following a request from the DoJ. In mid-November, Sputnik Radio's partner Reston Translator, a company that rebroadcasts radio programs, was registered as a foreign agent by the DOJ.
Earlier in December, Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc. (MRBI), the broadcaster of Sputnik programs, received a notice from the US Department of Justice about the possibility of registering as a "foreign agent" and was requested to provide additional information to the department.
"Russian media and reporters are becoming the targets of pressure and persecution, largely due to their national and state affiliation. Subsequently, we cannot rule out that the list of not-very-appropriate sanctions and prohibitions will expand," Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Timur Shafir told Sputnik last week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who hosted his signature annual press conference on Thursday, noted that the informational impact of the Russian news outlets is "dwarfed, in comparison, by that of the US media in Russia and across the world."
"What about freedom of speech, the cornerstone of American democracy?" the Russian President said, puzzled.
🍹RT NeilMacFarquhar: #Putin: US accusations of Russian meddling is "hysteria," not least given the tiny numbers and small footprint of RT news channel and Sputnik agency in American media market.— Patricia Glover (@PatriciaGloverr) 14 декабря 2017 г.
Moscow responded to the pressure on Russian media by adopting a law allowing the Russian Justice Ministry to recognize media outlets as "foreign agents," which was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 25.