Russia's RT Stripped of Congressional Press Accreditation

RT editor in chief Margarita Simonyan - P 2017
Courtesy of RT

The move, by the Congressional Radio and Television Correspondents Gallery, comes weeks after the Kremlin-funded TV service had to register as a "foreign agent."

Russia's Kremlin-funded international TV news channel RT has been stripped of its Congressional press accreditation just weeks after complying with a U.S. Justice Department order to register as a "foreign agent."

The move, by the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio and Television Correspondents Gallery, follows assurances that registration under the decades-old Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was a formality that would not affect RT's journalistic work.

But in a letter to RT, the Gallery cites registration under FARA as the reason for withdrawal of press credentials.

The letter, signed by executive committee chair Craig Caplan, states that the decision "to withdraw the news credentials of the RT Network … was taken in response to the registration of RT's operating company, T&R Productions … as a foreign agent."

RT said Thursday that it had earlier received assurances that FARA registration would not affect its operations and pointed to other foreign news organizations, including Japan's NHK and the China People's Daily, that were registered as "foreign agents" but continued to hold Congressional press accreditation.

RT quoted U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as saying Tuesday that "FARA does not police the content of information disseminated, does not limit the publication of information or advocacy materials and does not restrict an organization’s ability to operate."

Earlier this month, RT was told that it could no longer operate in the U.S. unless it complied with the Justice Department's demand to register under FARA. It filed as a foreign agent on Nov. 10.

RT's editor in chief Margarita Simonyan said double standards were being applied. "To all the self-righteous defenders of 'freedom of speech' who oh-so-ardently proclaimed that FARA registration places no restrictions whatsoever on RT's journalistic work in the U.S.: Withdrawal of Congressional credentials speaks much louder than empty platitudes," she said. 

Added Simonyan: "And to borrow from Orwell, all 'foreign agents' are equal, but [it] looks like only RT is denied Congressional accreditation on the basis of FARA status, while the likes of NHK and China People’s Daily carry on business as usual, and U.S. officials continue to claim that the forced FARA registration for RT America's operating company isn't at all discriminatory."

The decision to strip RT of its Congressional press credentials is likely to prompt reciprocal action in Moscow, where last week Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law allowing authorities to brand certain foreign media outlets as "foreign agents." 

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Voice of America and CNN are among U.S. outlets that Russian lawmakers have already suggested should be listed as foreign agents.