Withdrawal of RT America’s accreditation on Capitol Hill ‘very dire development’
How does it look to the world when RT America is stripped of US Congress, the birthplace of free expression “enshrined in its constitution”? How many other foreign government-controlled media networks “have been put through this drill”?
A congressional committee in the US has revoked RT America’s accreditation on Capitol Hill, citing its ‘foreign agent’ status. RT America received a letter, informing the network of the decision and asking it to return “credentials to the Senate Sergeant.” That’s despite earlier assurances from the State Department the status would not stand in the way of RT’s reporting.
So, what’s next for RT America? Will be more incidents like this?
Private investor & writer Charles Ortel called it a “very dire development” which “doesn’t make sense” to him.
“I believe [RT America] was commanded to register under FARA [Foreign Agents Registration Unit], and you followed the direction to do that. It would seem at first, that you have already been potentially harmed,” he said.
“Take the BBC, for example, and other – the Chinese state-controlled media operations in the US – how many foreign government-controlled media operations have been put through this drill?” he continued.
“If the answer to that question is only RT, then I would have thought that it is not as if relations between the US and Russia are hunky-dory and improving, I would have thought that this would be something that would go all the way directly up to chain, and that would trigger close attention by the highest levels in [Russian] government. Quite a stern response will be delivered to our side,” he told RT.
Commenting on how this fits in with the major principles of free speech and free press, Ortel said he “would lay that at the doorstep in part of the generation that is taking control of our university system and forgotten the great contributions of Thomas Jefferson.”
“Jefferson was the author of the Virginian Statute of Religious Freedom; he was obviously the author of the Declaration of Independence, and he was the founder of the University of Virginia. In addition to that, he was a governor of Virginia. He was our foreign minister; he was vice president, he was the President of the US. You know what he was proudest of and what is on his tombstone? The first three things I mentioned: not that he was president, not that he was secretary of state, but that he was the author of the Virginia Statute on the religious freedom – that forms the core of the First Amendment.”
Legal and media analyst Lionel called the letter sent to RT America “rather McCarthy-like.”
“So they want to withdraw news credentials of RT network by unanimous vote,” he said.
In October, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that registration “is simply triggered when an entity or an individual engages in political activity. When the United States tells someone to register under a foreign agent requirement, we don’t impact or affect the ability of them to report news and information. We just have them register. It’s as simple as that.”
Commenting on the move by the congressional committee, Lionel said:
“How does this look to the world? In the nation’s capital, the bastion of free speech, the First Amendment, where…thousands of people from every conceivable form of press that there is get a badge. But RT [doesn’t], they are ‘a foreign agent,’ they are different.”
In Lionel’s opinion, “this all started when Hillary Clinton lost the election, and I understand that they needed a scapegoat.”
“I understand that they had to blame somebody. So, Russia came along. That’s terrific. But this has just gone on to the point where it’s becoming absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
Lionel noted that thanks to all the fuss around RT, the channel has, in fact, gained popularity among Americans and more people are now aware of it.
“Do you know how many people now can’t wait to watch RT? Have you ever thought about this? …You know what happens in this country when you tell Americans “you can’t do something?”…Now [RT] is the hottest ticket in town,” he said.
John Hajjar, of the US Middle East Alliance to support Trump, said the ruling – which effectively means that RT reporters are barred from all events on Capitol Hill – doesn’t make much sense to him.
“My feeling is this [decision] actually will be reversed when a higher authority or some congressional leaders understand what took place. I would like to know who handles that press body within the Congress and just to see how that decision was arrived at. I think when that comes to light there will be actions taken to reverse it,” he said.
He added: “America is the birthplace of free expression. It is enshrined in our constitution in the First Amendment, and I am sure that President Trump feels very strong about free expression. You could see from his appointment of the Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai, who is speaking out very strongly against net neutrality rules, which basically were put in place by the Obama administration to limit or to give wide latitude to the content provider – social media. His action wants to restore the ability to take away government’s authority in policing the content over the internet. So if you look at the decisions made there, they are completely contrary to what took place in Congress in removing the credentials of RT.”