Censorship of Russian media in Europe: outraged, the European Federation of Journalists has declared war on the European Union
In an interview with the French channel France 24 and published on December 9, Ricardo Gutiérrez, Secretary-General of the European Federation of Journalists, strongly attacked the European Union, accusing this institution of short-circuiting all its authority to censor channels of Russia. sputnik and Russia Today, two channels banned from broadcasting in the West from the first days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For Gutiérrez, the ban on the broadcasting of these channels, voted directly by the States, “creates a dangerous precedent that represents a threat to the freedom of the press”
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France 24: EU justifies ban on Russian media by wanting to prevent Russia from spreading its propaganda in Europe. What do you think of this strategy? ?
Ricardo Gutierrez: the rules are very clear in this area: if television channels violate broadcasting rules, by inciting hatred for example, then yes, they should be banned. But it is not enough to say that they are propagandists. In each country, the State must file a complaint with the body responsible for regulating the media, which is responsible for deciding independently. This system is important to protect the press against political interference. However, for RT and Sputnik, the European Council wants to go quickly and bypass these bodies: the States directly vote for the ban by combining it with economic sanctions against Russian companies. This proposal creates a dangerous precedent that represents a threat to the freedom of the press.
Is the ban, in your opinion, an effective measure to counter the Kremlin’s message ?
This measure may be necessary in some cases, but I don’t think it’s effective. The fight against propaganda goes through the development of quality media, through education, and not through repressive measures or laws against fake news as adopted in France. The best weapon remains to bring counter-speech and to convince.
This type of proposal also runs the risk of consolidating propaganda and conspiracy enthusiasts into their positions. Moreover, those who really want to access these channels can still do so through foreign platforms. The ban reduced the visibility of the media, but did not completely block them. I consider that for the EU these steps are largely symbolic. It is a question of weighing the arm wrestling engaged in with Russia, more than a search for real effectiveness.
This new ban proposal seems to concern Russian-language television channels, particularly watched by Russian-speaking communities in the Baltic countries. How did Moscow approach the question of propaganda in these countries? ?
This was a very sensitive subject because these States lived under the Soviet yoke and were very afraid of the outbreak of war. Earlier this month, a media scandal erupted in Latvia involving the exiled Russian independent channel Dojd. It broadcast a map of Russia with Crimea in a report and one of its presenters was accused of making pro-Russian remarks. The channel, which claims an anti-war and pro-Ukrainian position, admitted mistakes, apologized and immediately fired the presenter. But Latvia and Lithuania still decided to revoke its license, saying it posed a threat to national security.
For me, this is a very disproportionate measure, somewhat indicative of the way in which Russian journalists fleeing their country are treated. Contrary to what is sometimes said, there were critical voices in the Russian press before the war, in the regional newspaper but also in the main business daily Kommersant, for example.
Thousands of journalists have been forced into exile since February by the Kremlin’s horrific crackdown. We help them get protection from Europe, but we get a lot of visa refusals from member states. This behavior is surprising. We often forget that they too are victims of Moscow’s actions.