US Congress has taken away the press accreditation of Russian TV channel RT (Russia Today) after it registered as a foreign agent, the RT website reports.
The relevant letter was addressed to Mikhail Solodovnikov, General Manager of RT. “This action was taken in response to the registration of RT Network’s operating company, T&R Productions LLC (T&R) as a foreign agent,” RT cites the letter as saying. The decision is effective immediately. The company T&R Productions LLC, which services RT America, was placed on the foreign agents register on November 13 by the US Justice Ministry.
Craig Caplan, Chair of the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio & Television Correspondents’ Galleries, said that the rules of the Galleries do not permit news credentials to be issued “to any applicant employed by any foreign government or representative thereof” TASS reports. “After registration as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, RT Network became ineligible to hold news credentials,” the news agency cites Craig Caplan as saying.
In response to the demand that RT register as a foreign agent, Russia adopted a law which makes it possible to confer a similar status to media outlets that receive funding from abroad. The State Duma ratified the relevant amendments on November 15, and they were signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 29. The decision to add media outlets to the foreign agents register will be made by the Russian Justice Ministry.
Two days ago it was reported that the State Duma had proposed a fine of up to 5 million rubles ($86,000) for violations of Russian legislation by such news outlets. The relevant bill was put forward by the heads of the Federation Council and State Duma committees on legislation and state construction Andrey Klishas and Pavel Krasheninnikov. They proposed that office holders be fined up to 200,000 rubles, and other physical entities up to 100,000 rubles, or arrest and 15 days of detention.
The US State Department urged the Russian authorities not to use the new law on media foreign agents to restrict freedom of speech in Russia. “Expanding the Foreign Agents Law to include media outlets opens the door to onerous requirements that could further stifle freedom of speech and editorial independence in Russia,” US State Department representative Heather Nauert said in a statement on November 29. According to her, the Russian law cannot be compared to the US act, since the latter does not “limit publication of information” or “restrict the organization’s ability to operate”.