RT silenced in Washington DC, proving FARA crackdown not just formality

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Originally appeared at RT

RT programming was removed from its two broadcast frequencies in the DC area. The move proves that claims made by the US government that the channel’s registration as a foreign agent would not affect its work were false.

Audiences in the Washington, DC area are no longer able to tune in to RT’s regular air broadcasts. Part of the reason is that MHz Networks, a Virginia-based not-for-profit distributor of international entertainment and news programming, decided to auction their licenses to frequencies previously used to broadcast RT, along with a dozen other outlets. The development was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday, which said that the change will take place on April 1. The auction of licenses happened in March 2017.

RT can now reveal that the channel was in fact dropped by its two signal broadcasters in the area, WNVT and WNVC, on February 2, 2018. This fact was later independently confirmed by MHz Networks through the Associated Press.

Anna Belkina, RT’s chief of communications, said that although the channel is not “at liberty to disclose the details, we know that this decision was linked to RT’s forced registration as a ‘foreign agent’ in the US.” The US Department of Justice forced RT America to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 2017.

Belkina added that “it is highly disappointing that despite repeated assurances that FARA status would not impact RT’s reporting and broadcasting capabilities, the registration, in fact, has placed undue burden on multiple areas of RT operations, and pressure on our partners as well, thus unequivocally demonstrating that the spirit of the FARA law is discriminatory even if the letter of that law isn’t.”

RT will continue to be available to viewers in the DC area on other platforms, including satellite.

Commenting on the development, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that it was part of a “concerning and frightening trend” in the US, which represented a “discriminatory policy towards the media in the United States.”

“We are carefully studying the situation and consider it very dangerous and consequential,” he added.

FARA was first passed to fight Nazi Germany’s propaganda and was mostly used to highlight lobbying for foreign governments. RT’s forced registration was part of Washington’s retaliation for the channel’s alleged interference with the 2016 presidential election – which was how the US intelligence community described RT’s reporting on American domestic problems and flaws in its foreign policy.

The registration previously cost RT journalists their access to the US Congress.

Frederick Thomas, the founder and president of MHZ Networks, told Bloomberg that the company did indeed contact the DoJ after it targeted Reston Translator LLC, the company producing content for RT America, as part of its FARA crackdown on Russian media reporting for US audiences. But he denied the decision to get rid of the broadcast frequencies, which affected RT’s presence in Washington, DC, had anything to do with it.

“It has more to do with the spectrum auction,” he said.

The development is not surprising, considering that the legal groundwork for such moves was passed in September 2017 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Buried in the military spending provisions was a small amendment that protects distributors from legal action if they refuse to drop “content that is owned or controlled by the Government of the Russian Federation.”

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  • Tudor Miron

    RT is not helping with brainwashing American poulation. Must be banned – to protect such democratic values like freedom of speach.

    • viktor ziv

      Hmmm, “we’re for democracy but not to spread out the thoughts” :D

    • John Whitehot

      once upon a time, there was an “evil empire”, and the “free world” was able to broadcast their free radios, with free information into it, bypassing the massive censorship effort.

      Resorting to censorship, is the utmost defeat for those that want to convince us that they are “the rightful side”.

      Look at yourself, free, civilized, and democratic west.

      Look at what you’ve become.

      My friend, as you are Russian I want to tell you one thing, never trade your ideals and values, with anything, no matter how much money is worth.
      Sooner or later, mankind will know with no more doubt, what is really valuable and what is not.

  • NeoLeo

    Their paranoid fear of one tv station/any different opinion but their own/ is just insane.
    United Police States of Tyranny.

  • Pave Way IV

    Nothing new. Even US terrorist-funding buddy Qatar had their Al Jazeera English network censored in the US years ago. They had to create a separate US-based Al Jazeera America network in 2013 just to get on cable and satellite – and that was damn near impossible. AJ America is the dumbed-down AJ English version limited to sanitized, CIA US-approved news.

    The Khazar Mafia owns the US MSM. No outsiders, inconvenient facts or dangerous thinking allowed. That’s why most Americans stopped watching the news or reading the paper. I guess Facebook and Twitter are the Plan B [chuckle].

  • Ivan Freely

    Soon Americans will have to resort to using VPNs to get any news outside their borders.

    • James

      For about a year in Australia I already had to, but it looks like they have given up hope of winning that battle as I’m back to viewing normally. The same will apply there unless they fully cut communication with the East.

  • EoF

    So much for free speech LMAO. The world is fucked.

  • Igor Dano

    funny yews.
    Once they cannot control the news, they destroy the channel.
    Russians must be doing perfect job, if yews are so afraid of RT.

  • Real Anti-Racist Action

    RT should be printing RT bumper stickers and giving one out per household that request it off of their website for their car. And RT should be selling Polo T-shirts for people to buy at $15 a piece so publicly the American people can advertise and see that millions of Americans trust RT and will go to RT.com for another point of view.

  • Smaug

    Obvious pro-Russian bias is obvious. A quick Google search reveals that Russia Today is partially owned by the Russian government. And as this articles says they are downsizing in the US partially because they are forced to register as foreign lobbyists. Characterizing this as ‘silencing’ is deliberately inaccurate.