The US-Russian war regarding media rages on, with the US Congress withdrawing RT America’s Capitol credentials, and Russia planning to retaliate.
This particular bout started rearing its head in late October, when Twitter cut the advertising from all accounts owned by RT and Sputnik, under suspicion of alleged interference into the 2016 US Presidential Election on Russia’s behalf. “Early this year, the US intelligence community named RT and Sputnik as implementing state-sponsored Russian efforts to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 Presidential election, which is not something we want on Twitter,” the company elaborated in a statement, announcing the decision.
This act of media warfare kickstarted one on an official level: Washington followed up on its threat first issued in September, and decided to apply its Foreign Agents Registration Act to RT America channel. The channel was forced to comply and registered as a “foreign agent” on November 13. RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, previously said that the channel was being forced into “conditions in which we cannot work” in the US, and called Washington’s demand an attempt to “drive [RT] out of the country.”
Russia responded by adopting an amendment that allows it to treat media outlets funded by foreign countries as foreign agents. According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, the new foreign agent law for media became a forced response to repressive measures against Russian media. “We were forced to take these steps, these response measures in light of the blatantly repressive actions, steps against Russian media, first of all Russia Today [RT’s former name] television channel,” she told journalists.
The US did not rest on its laurels though. On November 29, the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio & Television Correspondents’ Galleries said they unanimously voted to withdraw RT’s Capitol Hill credentials.
“The rules of the Galleries state clearly that news credentials may not be issued to any applicant employed ‘by any foreign government or representative thereof.’ Upon its registration as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), RT Network became ineligible to hold news credentials,” the committee said in the letter addressed to T&R Productions LLC, the production company behind RT America.
This stops the channel from efficiently covering the Congress, limiting its access to members of Congress the one enjoyed by general public, and barring entry to the Speaker’s lobby, the press galleries of the House and Senate Floors and other areas. It’s also often a precursor to other credentials, including permanent White House press credentials.
Russia’s Federation Council plans to retaliate as soon as possible, with Igor Morozov, a member of the Commission on Information Policy, saying that Russia should respond “as soon as possible, without delay.”
“We can stop the US media from getting access to the Federation Council on demand,” he said.