Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of the Kremlin-backed media outlet RT, announced Monday that RT America has registered with the U.S. Department of Justice as a "foreign agent."
The Department of Justice sent a letter to RT America back in September ordering that it register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because of their work for their Russian parent company, Simonyan said Thursday.
RT's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said on Thursday that the timeframe provided for the company by the DoJ is a "cannibalistic deadline." She 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."
While RT America will comply with the DOJ’s demand and register as a "foreign agent," the company will challenge the decision in court, Simonyan said. Refusing the order could result in the arrest of RT America's head, as well as the seizure of assets, rendering broadcasts impossible, she added.
RT America publicly announced last Thursday they were going to register as a foreign agent and then officially filled out the registration on Monday in order to avoid the television's head from being arrested and the company's assets frozen.
"Between the criminal case and registration, we chose the latter. And congratulations to American freedom of speech and anyone who still believes in it," Simonyan tweeted in Russian.
Между уголовным делом и регистрацией мы выбрали последнее. С чем и поздравляем американскую свободу слова и всех, кто в неё всё ещё верит.
— Маргарита Симоньян (@M_Simonyan) November 13, 2017
Acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente asserted Monday that this is proper enforcement of FARA.
"Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals," Boente said. "The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing FARA and expects compliance with the law by all entities engaged in specified activities on behalf of any foreign principal, regardless of its nationality."
Senator Konstantin Kosachev, the chair of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told journalists Thursday that the Department of Justice is playing a "dirty political game" by targeting "selected" Russian media outlets. He went on to call the Justice Department's move "an obviously discriminatory measure" and that it is aimed at media that are "inconvenient" for U.S. authorities.
Intelligence agencies have suspected RT of meddling in the 2016 presidential election between President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, according to Reuters.
U.S. intelligence agencies said in a report in January that the television station, which broadcasts on cable in the United States, is "Russia’s state-run propaganda machine" and that it contributed to the Kremlin’s campaign to interfere with last year’s presidential election in favor of Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.
Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations of election meddling and said it views the actions against RT as an unfriendly act.
But RT’s editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan, said on Monday that it would comply with the demand in order to avoid further legal action by the U.S. government.
Foreign governments and political parties are required to register with the DOJ under FARA, in addition to the lobbyists and public relations firms they hire. FARA was first passed in 1938 in an effort to combat German propaganda efforts leading up to World War II.