By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - Russia's English-language television broadcaster RT opted to avoid a legal battle with the U.S. government Monday, instead choosing to register as a foreign agent, its editor-in-chief and the Justice Department confirmed.
“Between legal action and registration [as a foreign agent], we have chosen the latter,” RT’s chief Margarita Simonyan said in a statement, later congratulating "the U.S. [on its] freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it”.
The network had until Nov. 13 to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) following the U.S. intelligence community's determination that it played a key role in what it termed an "influence campaign" aimed at undercutting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during last year's White House race.
The 1938 law was initially created to counter Nazi Germany's propaganda activities in the U.S. It requires U.S. nationals working for foreign governments to register with the government.
“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,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente said in a statement.
In addition to the determination from intelligence agencies, officials have accused RT of being a propaganda wing for the Kremlin. RT, formerly known as Russia Today, denies the accusation.
The Russian Embassy warned Nov. 9 that the then-looming registration "will inevitably trigger an immediate symmetrical response, as provided for in the Russian legislation".
In its filing, T&R Productions, which operates RT in the U.S., said it is an agent for ANO TV-Novosti, the Russian government entity that runs RT's operations around the world, according to the Justice Department.
The department said it is reviewing T&R's filings to ensure they sufficiently comply with the law.
Registering under FARA does not limit RT's U.S. operations, and other government-run news outlets have registered under the law, according to the Justice Department.