"Based upon information known to this office, including press reports and other publicly available information as well as non-public information we gathered during our investigation, we have determined that RIA Global LLC has an obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. RIA Global's obligation to register arises from its political activities in the United States," a letter received by RIA Global LLC, read.
According to the DOJ, the registration should take place within 30 days starting from January 5.
The department stated that RIA Global produced content on behalf of Rossiya Segodnya and thus on behalf of the Russian government.
"Registration under FARA would not affect the content of any broadcasts or publications that emanate from Rossiya Segodnya in Moscow. Upon registration, Rossiya Segodnya and RIA Global may continue producing and broadcasting the content of their choosing, provided that each broadcast is accompanied by a requisite disclosure statement," the letter read.
A number of Russian media outlets, such as RT and Sputnik, have faced significant pressure in the United States over the past few months, with US lawmakers and intelligence community claiming that they may have been involved in Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election. RT and Sputnik, as well as the Russian authorities, have repeatedly refuted the allegations as unsubstantiated.
On November 13, RT America registered as a foreign agent in the United States under the FARA upon the request of the US Justice Department. In mid-November, Sputnik Radio's partner Reston Translator, a company that rebroadcasts radio programs, was also forced to register as a foreign agent by the DOJ. In December, the Multicultural Radio Broadcasting Inc. (MRBI) company, broadcasting Sputnik radio programs on AM frequencies, also received a notice from the US Justice Department about the possibility of registering as a foreign agent and was requested to provide additional information regarding a decision.
Margarita Simonyan, RT and Sputnik editor-in-chief commenting on the situation said that the demand to register was discriminatory, contradicted the principles of democracy and freedom of speech, and barred them from equal competition with foreign broadcasters working in the United States not registered as foreign agents.
Other foreign state media outlets in the United States, such as the United Kingdom’s BBC, China’s CCTV, Germany’s Deutsche Welle and others, have not been requested to register under FARA.
Following RT's registration under the act, in late November, the US Congressional Press Galleries voted to immediately take away RT's credentials. Albeit not affecting RT content directly, the loss of accreditation has stripped the channel's reporters of the ability to properly do their job, according to Simonyan. She stressed that the absence of Congress accreditation will inhibit reporters from obtaining credentials for a much wide scope of events that they previously had access to.
Responding to this pressure exerted on the Russian media, Moscow worked out a set of measures as well. In particular, Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 25 signed a law allowing the Russian Justice Ministry to recognize media outlets as "foreign agents." The Ministry of Justice in December placed nine media outlets, including the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, on its list of "foreign agents."