US-based Russian news outlet registers as foreign agent

US Department of Justice. (Shutterstock)
Updated 18 February 2018
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US-based Russian news outlet registers as foreign agent

WASHINGTON: US-based Russian news outlet RIA Global LLC has registered as a foreign agent with the US Justice Department, the fourth Russian-linked media company to do so since November under pressure from the US government.
RIA Global, which produces content for Russian state-owned news outlet Sputnik, registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) on Friday, according to filings on the Justice Department’s website.
FARA, an 80-year old law aimed at making the public aware of the source of foreign propoganda, has taken on new importance in recent months amid probes by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and multiple congressional committees into Russian attempts to disrupt the 2016 US presidential election.
On Friday, Mueller disclosed charges against 13 Russians and three Russian companies with a conspiracy to tamper in the election. Those charged included St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency known for its trolling on social media.
Sputnik had flagged in January that the Justice Department would require RIA Global to register under FARA.
RIA Global said in its registration that it retains “independent editorial control” over the shows, newswires and web articles it produces and that it “respectfully disagrees that FARA should apply.”
The registration revealed an intention to promote to some extent the Kremlin’s view. A contract accompanying RIA’s registration includes a provision that essays focused on or involving Russia “must reflect Russia’s stance on the subject and present opinions of Russian experts.”
RIA Global’s customer of record is Federal State Unitary Enterprise Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, the Russian state entity that owns Sputnik and was created by a decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Reston Translator LLC, a Virgina-based radio broadcaster of Sputnik programming, registered as a foreign agent in November, as did T&R Productions, LLC (T&R), a Washington, D.C.-based firm that produces English-language programming for the RT Network, a TV broadcaster funded by the Russian government.
RTTV America, Inc, which previously produced content for RT, registered under FARA in December.
A January 2017 US intelligence report concluded that Russia conducted an influence campaign of hacking and other measures aimed at swinging the 2016 presidential vote to Donald Trump. The report said Sputnik and RT are part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine” that contributed to that campaign.
Putin, upset by the pressure on Russian media companies to register under FARA, has retaliated by signing a law that allows the Russian authorities to designate international media outlets as “foreign agents”.


Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

Updated 19 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘has a case’ in complaint over World Cup ‘politicization’ by Qatar’s BeIN

  • Broadcast of political messages in coverage forbidden, analyst confirms.
  • Saudi football federation urges FIFA to sanction the Doha-owned channel.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has a justified case in complaining to FIFA over the “politicization” of the World Cup by the Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports, a prominent TV analyst has said.
A flurry of comments by hosts and pundits aired on BeIN’s Arabic station prompted the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to complain to FIFA this week, saying the broadcaster was using the football tournament to spread political messages aimed at insulting Saudi Arabia and its leaders.
In its complaint, the federation called on FIFA to take severe sanctions against the Qatari channel and to abolish the rights granted to the network.
One BeIN commentator accused Saudi Arabia of “selling out the Palestinian cause,” while a Doha-based international footballer invited on the channel was allowed to call for an end to the year-long boycott of Qatar by neighbors Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.
Constantinos Papavassilopoulos, principal TV research analyst at IHS Markit Technology, said that politicized coverage was expressly forbidden by world football’s governing body as well as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
“FIFA and UEFA forbid the transmission of political messages during football matches for which they control the rights. It’s not only comments by the broadcasters — but even banners; everything (political) is forbidden,” the analyst told Arab News.
“So messages about Palestine, about political things, are not allowed.”
Papavassilopoulos said that if there is evidence of such cases, authorities in the Kingdom would be justified in taking the matter to FIFA.
“If there are video clips that show BeIN media personnel speaking against Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has a case,” he said.
But whether FIFA will take any action against BeIN is another matter. Papavassilopoulos pointed to the fact that BeIN is a valued client of FIFA — it bought the rights to host the World Cup across the Middle East and North Africa — and that Qatar plans to host the tournament in 2022.
“BeIN media is a very good client for FIFA. And don’t forget that Qatar is the country that will host the 2022 World Cup,” he said. “It’s going to be very very hard for FIFA to impose penalties on BeIN media knowing that Qatar will hold the next World Cup.”
Some of the biggest names in Arab sport have signed a petition to protest against BeIN’s politicization of World Cup coverage, urging FIFA President Gianni Infantino to investigate the coverage.
FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.