To force RT America to register as a foreign agent is “unprecedented,” Georgetown University journalism professor Chris Chambers says. The law used against the network was first used to combat Nazi propaganda, but has never been applied to a news network.
RT America host Ed Schultz spoke with Chambers on Monday, following a similar reaction from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which called the US government’s designation of RT America under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) “a troubling precedent” and a “bad idea.”
FARA became law in 1938, when the US sought to prevent Nazi propaganda before officially entering World War II. The 79-year-old law has never been used against a news network.
Schultz said it was “selectively applied to RT to put pressure on perspectives some people in the government, especially Democrats, would rather not hear.”
“Now this is coming from, I believe, Democratic senators such as Jeanne Shaheen and Amy Klobuchar, who supported Hillary Clinton to the hilt and want to retaliate against the Trump presidency. That’s my opinion,” Schultz said on ‘News with Ed’ Monday night.
“It should be pointed out that no employee from RT has ever been invited to testify under oath on Capitol Hill,” Schultz continued. “I ask tonight, where’s the fairness? Because Google and Facebook testified openly just within the last 10 days that RT had a minimal footprint in social media leading up to the election.”
Schultz added that “no one in Congress has pointed to any stories that we have done that are not journalistically-based, that are not fair to the viewer.”
Chambers estimated that the law has been used “maybe 20 times in 70 years.”
“Basically, you register as a lobbyist or some other organization that is supposedly speaking for another country and another country’s best interests,” he said.
“It’s not the government coming after you with full fangs and claws. It’s the government coming at you like a weasel,” Chambers said. “There’s a difference between a lion coming after you with full fangs and claws and a weasel coming after you through the backdoor. And this is basically backdoor censorship.”
RT America “has the same First Amendment rights as Comcast Universal does with NBC,” Chambers told Schultz. “But they can’t infringe on those rights without doing a backdoor to RT, because they don’t like the content. I mean, it’s clear that they don’t like the content.”
“If it’s a problem with a foreign media outlet,” he continued, “why isn’t it done to the BBC? Why isn’t it done to China national television or the Japanese or any number of other media outlets that, say, the Saudis might contribute to?”