Judge rules DC-based radio station register as Russian agent

A radio station in D.C. now must register as a Russian foreign agent after a federal judge issued her ruling Tuesday in favor of the Department of Justice.

From her West Palm Beach courtroom, U.S. District Court Judge Robin Rosenburg granted the Department of Justice’s motion on pleadings, finding that RM Broadcasting is a foreign principal and must register with the U.S. government.

The station airs Sputnik International broadcast from Moscow.

The ruling enforces the Foreign Agents Registration Act, originally adopted by Congress in 1938 to combat Nazi propaganda.

In her opinion, Rosenburg writes that while RM’s owner, an American named Arnold Ferolito, contended the station simply buys and resells airtime to the creators of Sputnik International, it’s required to do much more, including its own programming.

Though Ferolito acknowledged selling airtime to Rossiya Segodnya, the Russian Federation government-owned news agency, and contends “this commercial transaction in no way created an agency relationship,” the judge sided with the Justice Department’s argument based on FARA.

“FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the definition on the DOJ’s website.

In June 2018, the government informed RM Broadcasting it should register as a radio station with foreign allegiances under new registration rules, which likely refers to the passage of the John McCain Defense Authorization Act in 2018.

Ferolito filed suit against the department for its demands.

The judge’s ruling bolsters the Justice Department’s efforts requiring several media outlets, including Russia Today, register as foreign agents.

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