WASHINGTON (AP) — The owner of a Washington, D.C., area radio station that broadcasts Russia-based Sputnik International 24/7 has been ordered to register his Florida-based broadcasting company as a foreign agent.
U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg ruled Tuesday that RM Broadcasting must register with the U.S. government. RM and a Russian government-owned news agency, Rossiya Segodnya, agreed in 2017 that the station would broadcast the agency’s communications continuously without edit until 2021.
The Justice Department told RM and its owner, Arnold Ferolito, in 2018 that the station was acting as a “publicity agent” for the Russian agency. It said RM would need to register as a foreign principal under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, originally adopted to fight Nazi propaganda. Ferolito asked the court to rule on the matter, arguing that RM only buys and resells airtime.
But the judge sided with the Justice Department, ruling that RM acts under the direction or control of the Russian entity and is its publicity agent as it airs its material without change. She said that under the law, RM’s assertion that it has no input or knowledge of Rossiya Segodnya’s programming and no intent to advance Russia’s interests is irrelevant.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act was adopted during the lead up to World War II to protect national security. It requires any person or company engaging in propaganda or other activities for foreign governments and interests to register so that Americans may consider “statements and actions in the light of their associations.”