Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether the Telesur television network is an unregistered agent of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela.
“As the Administration continues to help the people of Venezuela take back their country from authoritarian dictators, I am writing to request the Administration help the people of the United States by investigating the status of Telesur under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” Wilson wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to Justice Secretary Jeff Sessions.
Wilson added that Telesur “appears to act under foreign direction and engages in political activities in the interest of its foreign principal, primarily the government of Venezuela.”
“The Telesur network is to Venezuela what Russia Today is to Russia, a propaganda outfit masquerading as a news organization broadcasting information that undermines U.S. interests in Latin America,” the congressman wrote. Wilson's office said Tuesday that he had received no reply from the Justice Department.
McClatchy reported that Wilson may want to become chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Telesur, launched by the late Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, is facing some rough times. It started broadcasting in 2005 as an “alternative” TV network financed by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Uruguay and Argentina. Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador joined later. Venezuela controls at least 51 percent of its shares and its content.
But changes in the leadership of member countries led Argentina to drop out in 2016 and Ecuador last month, arguing that Telesur's content amounts to propaganda. Telesur has been broadcasting around the clock in English in the Washington, D.C., area since March 2015 after a test period.
Telesur and the Kremlin-financed Russia Today share content. RT launched its Spanish-language channel in 2009 and the two networks produce En La Mira — Under the Scope — described on its web page as “a series of programs designed to counteract the dictates of the 'mainstream' mass media.”
“The policy of sanctions carried out by the U.S., the opposition to Western media corporations, as well as the creation of a multi polar world figure among its principal topics for discussion,” the page added. RT and the Cuban government's Cubadebate website also publish the columns of Eva Golinger, a U.S. lawyer and longtime Chávez supporter.
RT has been embroiled in the complaints that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election in 2016, and Congress canceled its news media accreditation to report on the Capitol.
RT complied in November 2017 with a Justice Department order to register as a foreign agent, and announced in March that it would stop broadcasting in Washington because of the pressures from the Justice Department. Only two lobbying firms are currently registered in the United States to represent Venezuelan interests. Hogan Lovells US LLP represents the government of Venezuela and High Lantern Group LLP represents jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López.