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14th Aug 2022

EU court upholds ban on Russia Today broadcaster

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russia Today chief Margarita Simonyan (Photo: kremlin.ru)
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The EU court in Luxembourg has thrown out Russia's challenge against a ban on propaganda outlet Russia Today imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.

The ban did not infringe the "right of free speech", because it covered "broadcasting of propaganda" in support of Russia's military aggression by a wholly Russian state-funded outlet, the court said in its verdict on Wednesday (27 July).

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It was in the "general interest" because it was aimed at "protecting the Union's public order and security, which are threatened by the systematic propaganda campaign put in place by the Russian Federation", the court said.

It was also "proportionate" given the high stakes and given the "temporary and reversible" nature of the broadcasting injunction, the court added.

The EU ban, enacted on 1 March, was challenged by RT France, which also claimed the EU Council had no competence in such matters and had ignored its "right to be heard" before going ahead.

But the court said, given that the Russia Today and RT France broadcast throughout the EU, counter-propaganda measures "can be better realised at EU level than at national level".

And it added that, since Russia Today was cheerleading the war as it unrolled, "the immediate implementation of measures" was more important than listening to RT France's arguments.

The General Court's verdict came just four months and 19 days after the complaint was lodged under an "expedited procedure", while normal cases take years to conclude.

But RT France said it would appeal the decision at the EU's highest tribunal — the Court of Justice.

"The court's confirmation of this general ban ... unfortunately shows the judicial power of the European Union cannot or does not want to oppose political power," RT France president Xenia Fedorova said.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, also vowed retaliation against European media in Russia.

"Essentially, RT has been blocked and cannot operate in Europe. Europeans are trampling on their own ideals," he said.

"Of course, we will take similar measures of pressure on Western media that operate in our country," he added.

Many foreign media quit Russia anyway after it threatened journalists with 15 years' jail if they did not adhere to Kremlin rules on describing the war against Ukraine as a "special military operation".

The main Dutch journalists' trade union, the Nederlandse Vereniging van Journaliste (NVJ), and rights groups such as Bits of Freedom, launched a separate legal challenge against the EU ban in May.

"You're punishing the European people, by not treating them like adults," the NVJ's Thomas Bruning said at the time.

Opinion

Banning Russia Today? There are actually difficulties

In the short term, limiting RT and Sputnik's ability to spread disinformation about the appalling human cost of the war in Ukraine may appear a timely and proportionate response. In the long run, questions remain over their wisdom and effectiveness.

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How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?

Russian domestic television - the only source of foreign news for most Russians - consistently shows Europe over-run by immigrants, beset by terrorist atrocities, and on strike. This has serious consequences.

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