By Nathan Layne
Feb 17 (Reuters) - U.S.-based Russian news outlet RIA Global
LLC has registered as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice
Department, the fourth Russian-linked media company to do so
since November under pressure from the U.S. government.
RIA Global, which produces content for Russian state-owned
news outlet Sputnik, registered under the Foreign Agents
Registration Act (FARA) on Friday, according to filings on the
Justice Department's website.
FARA, an 80-year old law aimed at making the public aware of
the source of foreign propoganda, has taken on new importance in
recent months amid probes by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and
multiple congressional committees into Russian attempts to
disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On Friday, Mueller disclosed charges against 13 Russians and
three Russian companies with a conspiracy to tamper in the
election. Those charged included St. Petersburg-based Internet
Research Agency known for its trolling on social media.
Sputnik had flagged in January that the Justice Department
would require RIA Global to register under FARA.
RIA Global said in its registration that it retains
"independent editorial control" over the shows, newswires and
web articles it produces and that it "respectfully disagrees
that FARA should apply."
The registration revealed an intention to promote to some
extent the Kremlin's view. A contract accompanying RIA's
registration includes a provision that essays focused on or
involving Russia "must reflect Russia's stance on the subject
and present opinions of Russian experts."
RIA Global's customer of record is Federal State Unitary
Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency,
the Russian state entity that owns Sputnik and was created by a
decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Reston Translator LLC, a Virgina-based radio broadcaster of
Sputnik programming, registered as a foreign agent in November,
as did T&R Productions, LLC (T&R), a Washington, D.C.-based firm
that produces English-language programming for the RT Network, a
TV broadcaster funded by the Russian government.
RTTV America, Inc, which previously produced content for RT,
registered under FARA in December.
A January 2017 U.S. intelligence report concluded that
Russia conducted an influence campaign of hacking and other
measures aimed at swinging the 2016 presidential vote to Donald
Trump. The report said Sputnik and RT are part of "Russia’s
state-run propaganda machine" that contributed to that campaign.
Putin, upset by the pressure on Russian media companies to
register under FARA, has retaliated by signing a law that allows
the Russian authorities to designate international media outlets
as “foreign agents”.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in New York; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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