Wednesday, December 13, 2017

RT and the State Dept

I'm not seeing any news reports on the exchange between RT and the State Dept's Heather Nauert at yesterday's State Dept press briefing so I'm posting it here.

RT is RUSSIA TODAY and it's a news channel.  It has (my opinion) been wrongly forced to register as a foreign agent.  RT raised the issue and how this registration was impacting their access.

MS NAUERT: Yeah, hi. What is your name?

QUESTION: Sameera Khan.

MS NAUERT: And you’re from?


MS NAUERT: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Yes. So when RT was forced to register as a foreign agent, you said that it wouldn’t inhibit our ability to report. However, just a couple weeks ago, our press credentials were revoked. So doesn’t this contradict your earlier statements?

MS NAUERT: I think press credentials may have been revoked by Congress, and not necessarily the members of Congress, but rather the association of reporters that handles who gets to come in and cover Congress. The – FARA, the act that you’re speaking of, only requires that organizations register with the federal government. That is it. The United States does not tell any Russian news organization what to report or how to report it. We don’t tell Turkish ones, we don’t tell Polish ones. In fact, the fact that you’re here as a representative of the Russian Government is a perfect example of how we do not restrict any type of freedom of the press. You come in, Sputnik comes in, all the Russians come in here and you are more than welcome, and the reason why you’re more than welcome --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) House of Representatives --

MS NAUERT: Hold on. The reason that you are more than welcome is because we have freedom of the press here in the United States. We support the First Amendment. We wish that the Russian Government would give us the same opportunities to report freely in Russia as we provide you all here.
Any of you listen to bluegrass? All right. Laurie, you listen to bluegrass. My understanding is that one of the bluegrass stations, I think it’s 105.5 here in Washington – is that right? You’re nodding. You’re nodding too.

QUESTION: The only one.

MS NAUERT: Okay. Well, it used to be bluegrass and now it’s Russian radio. Right?

QUESTION: It’s Sputnik.

MS NAUERT: Now it’s Sputnik Radio. So that is a perfect example, on the free airwaves here, where people don’t have to pay for it. But they can get Russian news, if you will.

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS NAUERT: And by the way, may I just mention that Russian Government itself has talked about how it will influence RT and Sputnik, how it will influence how it reports and what it reports on.

QUESTION: Yes, but back to the original question: We can’t go to the House of Representatives or the Senate to report, so that restricts our ability to report on that.

MS NAUERT: I would encourage you, then, to talk to the congressional correspondents association. You are more than welcome here at the State Department anytime you like, but that would be up for the State Department’s Correspondents’ Association to handle.

QUESTION: Heather?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS NAUERT: Yeah, hi.

QUESTION: Heather, how do I --

QUESTION: A couple --

QUESTION: On this issue --


QUESTION: -- Heather, how – that was a very nice, full-throated support of freedom of the press you just gave, but how comfortable are you doing that and how comfortable are you that you can speak for the entire administration given the fact that you just went off on the – you heavily criticized Poland for this – going after a TV station for biased reporting, but we’re hearing the same thing coming out of the White House every day. Criticism, yes, not legal action, at least not yet. Are you comfortable --

MS NAUERT: Well --

QUESTION: -- that you speak for the entire administration --

MS NAUERT: -- I think --

QUESTION: -- in your support for --

MS NAUERT: I think that – I think these instances are night and day. The administration is rightfully concerned about some erroneous reporting that’s come out. I have said to some of you here before – although I think you are all terrific reporters here at the State Department. We are very lucky to have a professional group of reporters who take the issues as seriously as you do. There have been in the past mistakes that have been made. Whether or not they have been intentional or not on the part of reporters, I cannot speak to because I’m not involved in that. But there have been times in the past where reporters have just frankly gotten it wrong, and I understand that members of the administration would be concerned about reporters getting things wrong.
But I am not going to back away from my defense of a free and fair press that reports responsibly and accurately. That is something that we stand for here in the United States. We like to set an example for other countries and talk about how we can have uncomfortable conversations here in this room. You’re asking me that very question. That is what we stand for. You from the Russian Government, you were asking me those questions too. You are welcome here anytime. That is what we stand for here in the United States --

QUESTION: So what’s the definition of “free and fair press?”

MS NAUERT: -- free and fair debate.

QUESTION: Any network that’s funded by a state government? Or what’s your definition?

MS NAUERT: We have many news organizations that are funded by state governments who are welcome to come here. That is an example, no better example.

QUESTION: So it’s just the Russian Government – any network funded by the Russian Government, those are the only ones that can be targeted?

MS NAUERT: I’m sorry, targeted?

QUESTION: Are targeted, cracked down on, restricted in reporting.



MS NAUERT: -- will ask entities to have to sign up for the FARA Act. That’s it. I’m pretty sure that there are other ones on there as well. We’re going to have to move on. You’re welcome back anytime.