A D.C.-based radio station was ordered to register as a Russian foreign agent by a federal judge in a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department, WTOP reported.
During the trial, Arnold Ferolito, the 76-year-old American owner of RM Broadcasting that airs Sputnik International 24/7 from Moscow, asserted that his company based in Florida was only buying and reselling airtime to the Russia’s government-run news agency Rossiya Segodnya.
The Justice Department requested the station’s registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires agents operating for the political interests of foreign countries to disclose their relationship with the foreign government and provide reports on financial activity. It passed Congress in 1938 primarily against Nazi propaganda.
Robin Rosenburg, a federal judge in West Palm Beach, Florida, concluded that RM Broadcasting was a foreign principal and that it was obligated to register.
Even though there were a number of advisory opinions issued by the federal government in the past, FARA was enforced against media figures in very rare occasions since the Cold War era. However, following the 2016 presidential election, TV and radio stations with connections to foreign countries started to receive letters from the Justice Department asking that they register as foreign agents.
Russia Today and Sputnik were among the outlets that complied with the directive, while the moves sparked a new debate regarding FARA, which some claim to be possibly unconstitutional.