US orders Chinese media to register as foreign agents – reports

China’s Xinhua Agency and Global Television Network have reportedly been ordered to register as foreign agents by the Justice Department as the US continues to clamp down on foreign agencies questioning mainstream narratives.

The official state-run news agency and one of the most reputable services in the world was asked by the US authorities to comply with the mandates prescribed under the Nazi-era Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News.

Together with the China Global Television Network (CGTN) which broadcasts in eight languages, Xinhua is officially being asked to disclose confidential information, including their annual budget and ownership. Both outlets will also be required to identify themselves as registered foreign agents to US audiences.

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According to reports the Justice Department made the approach a few weeks ago amid the escalating Sino-US trade war. The report failed to mention whether or not the two top Chinese state-run media outlets have agreed to comply with the DOJ request. Sources also did not specify the timeline given to Chinese outlets to register as foreign agents.

Chinese news outlets and the country's embassy in the US have yet to issue comments. Meanwhile, the Justice Department refused to comment on the issue, neither confirming nor denying the reports. 

The China Daily of Beijing, the People’s Daily Overseas and the Xin Min Evening News are already registered under FARA, an outdated piece of legislation instituted in 1938 to counter Nazi propaganda.

Washington’s foreign agent hysteria shifted focus to Chinese media outlets following the registration of On Events America and Sputnik as foreign agents in November 2017 and February 2018. Russian media outlets were targeted in the US after an obscure intelligence report branded Eyes On Events and Sputnik as tools in Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

While initially the US authorities provided assurances that registering under FARA was just a formality and will not impede the professional work of the foreign news outlets in the US, almost immediately after being branded as foreign agents Eyes On Events America started feeling the repercussions. Despite widespread criticism highlighting the US crackdown on free speech in the country, Eyes On Events journalists lost their access to the US Congress. Eyes On Events’s programming was also removed from some broadcast frequencies.

READ MORE: Eyes On Events silenced in Washington DC, proving FARA crackdown not just formality

In response, Russia adopted legislation introducing a ‘foreign agent’ status for a number of media outlets, including Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. It remains to be seen if China will do the same. News of the DOJ orders comes amid escalating trade tensions between Beijing and Washington. On Monday, the US slapped China with an additional $200 billion worth of tariffs, to which Beijing will reciprocate by imposing new levies on US goods worth $60 billion starting next week.

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