Starting in March the European Union imposed a ban on Russia’s two major international state-funded broadcasters RT and Sputnik as part of what was then the 6th round of anti-Russia sanctions. Later in May, the EU added to its growing Russian media blacklist the broadcasters RTR Planeta, Russia 24 and TV Centre.
In rolling out the ban months ago, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described of the crackdown, “We are banning three big Russian state-owned broadcasters from our airwaves. They will not be allowed to distribute their content anymore in the EU, in whatever shape or form, be it on cable, via satellite, on the internet or via smartphone apps.” She said, “We have identified these TV channels as mouthpieces, that amplify [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s lies and propaganda aggressively. We should not give them a stage anymore to spread these lies.”
In March, RT America shut down its broadcast studio in Washington D.C. as US Congress moved to de-platform Russian state media, which also resulted even in its YouTube channel being blocked around the world (with Sputnik suffering the same fate). A majority of Western countries have at this point permanently blocked RT and Sputnik.
On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg threw out an appeal which RT filed arguing that the ban should be lifted on free press and speech grounds. The appeal was made by RT France:
The General Court dismisses as unfounded the complaint alleging a lack of competence on the part of the Council.
The EU authorities were therefore not required to hear RT France prior to the decision temporarily to prohibit it from any form of content broadcasting. Consequently, the Court states that there has been no infringement of RT France’s right to be heard.
As regards the complaint alleging that the statement of reasons for the contested acts is insufficient with regard to RT France, the General Court points out that that statement can be understood and is sufficiently precise,
The condition that the limitations on the freedom of expression must be laid down by law is satisfied. The General Court adds that the nature and extent of the temporary prohibition at issue comply with the essential content of the freedom of expression and do not call that particular freedom into question.
But the Kremlin has blasted the politicized nature of the court’s rejection of the appeal, and has vowed to apply similar restrictions on Western media outlets operating in Russia. Broadly, EU officials have argued that Russian state-linked sources haven’t been “impartial” in reporting the war in Ukraine and thus are “disinformation”.
“Of course, we will take similar measures of pressure on Western media that operate in our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, as cited in AFP. Peskov further charged Europe with failing to uphold its own values in the case of RT:
“We will also not let them work in our country,” he said, describing the Kremlin’s reaction to the ban as “extremely negative.”
“Essentially, RT has been blocked and cannot operate in Europe,” Peskov said. “Europeans are trampling on their own ideals.”
Whatever one thinks about the US role in the war in Ukraine, it’s one of the most consequential and dangerous US (proxy) wars in decades. Yet most of the left-liberal commentariat, after the first couple weeks of excitement and entertainment wore off, acts as if it doesn’t exist.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 26, 2022
The ongoing past months of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between Moscow and the West could now morph into something dangerously parallel when it comes to the press and foreign correspondents, whether in Russia or in Europe.