USDOJ should stop persecuting foreign-owned press

We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation or control of communications media and technology.

The Department of Justice demanded in November that the Russia-owned media outlet RT must register as a foreign agent under the provisions of a World War II–era law, even though it specifically excludes “any news or press service” with primary interests in the United States. After RT registered, the Executive Committee of the Congressional Radio & Television Correspondents’ Galleries withdrew the organization’s press credentials, effectively hindering its political coverage — and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security Adam Hickey now insists that, despite the DOJ’s demand, RT’s compliance was only a “voluntary decision.”

Freedom of the press should be sacrosanct in the United States, especially considering the explicit protection for the rights to speak and publish guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but government officials are using the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in an effort to silence views they don’t like.

“Freedom of speech, especially political speech, is essential to a free society,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark. “It doesn’t matter if some of that speech is sponsored by people in other countries. The BBC isn’t subject to U.S. government harassment because it’s owned by the United Kingdom. France 24, Deutsche Welle, and Al Jazeera all have a longstanding American presence despite funding by foreign governments. The United States has its own state-sponsored foreign media presence, the Voice of America. If people don’t like the news coverage or commentary published by RT or any other media outlets, they should respond with their own views and arguments rather than resorting to effective censorship.”

Allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election were “certainly relevant to our decision” regarding RT, Hickey said in his remarks, but the allegations are still uncertain and accusations of secret hacking are a far cry from an organization that engages in routine, public news coverage. This amounts to a flimsy pretext for the use of government power to prevent a particular editorial viewpoints from being heard.

“The marketplace of ideas can’t function when some people’s views are pushed aside by an arbitrary government ruling,” Sarwark said. “Libertarians understand what it’s like to be silenced and marginalized by powerful interests. We stand up for individual freedom and advocate radically limiting the unjust exercise of authority, so people with an entrenched interest in the status quo fear our ideas and try to keep us off the ballot. No matter how controversial some ideas may be, though, the government’s ability to silence them is a far larger threat to freedom.”

The Libertarian Party has an ambitious goal of running 2,000 candidates for public office during 2018, bringing its radical but common-sense ideas of fiscal responsibility, social acceptance, and peace to voters throughout the United States.