March 4. 2024. 6:32

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RT Germany to shut down following latest EU sanctions

The German branch of Kremlin-backed outlet Russia Today (RT DE) will shut its doors following the latest round of EU sanctions, a month after its French counterpart was forced to do the same.

RT DE announced the termination of its journalistic activities on Friday (3 February) in response to the ninth package of EU sanctions on Russia following its aggression in Ukraine, rolled out in December.

The news follows the closure of RT France last month, in which the media outlet ceased journalistic activity in the country after Paris froze its assets under the measures imposed by Brussels.

In a statement released late last week, RT DE announced that it would cease its journalistic operations in Germany in reaction to EU restrictions, denouncing what it described as the EU’s “repressive restrictions on press and media freedoms”, which it said had forced the decision.

The outlet had been operating at a diminished capacity following the first tranche of sanctions last March, which banned the broadcasting activities of five RT branches and fellow Kremlin-backed media, Sputnik.

The measures, which came in the form of economic sanctions and were described at the time of their release as targeting companies “at the core of the Kremlin’s propaganda machine”, were intended to stem the tide of disinformation linked to the war.

EU rolls out new sanctions banning RT and Sputnik

The EU has imposed economic sanctions on Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik for what officials describe as their “essential and instrumental” role in bringing aggression towards Ukraine and destabilising neighbouring countries.

The move was not wholly welcomed by the media sector, however. For example, the European Federation of Journalists warned that media was national, rather than Union-level, competence and that it would be “counterproductive” and a form of censorship that could threaten freedom of expression more broadly in Europe.

The most recent round of sanctions expanded the list of outlets whose broadcast licences have been suspended, with four new additions: NTV/NTV Mir, Rossiya 1, REN TV and Pervyi Kanal.

Per the terms of the sanctions, the outlets have not been banned from conducting other forms of journalistic activity, such as research and interviews. The introduction of successive rounds of sanctions has, however, meant that the media organisations no longer have the financial capacity to continue working.

“The ninth package of EU sanctions cut off funding for RT DE Productions, making it impossible for the company to continue its journalistic activities in Germany”, RT DE’s CEO, Dinara Toktosunova, wrote on Telegram.

“The website and TV channel RT DE will continue to operate outside the EU, from Moscow,” she added.

RT France similarly shuttered its operations in January after the French treasury froze its assets in line with Brussels’ sanctions. Shortly after, a source from the Russian foreign ministry was quoted as saying that Moscow would retaliate against French media in Russia.

Russia vows to retaliate after RT accounts frozen in France

Moscow will retaliate against French media in Russia after the bank accounts of RT France, the French arm of its state broadcaster, were frozen, Russian news agencies quoting an anonymous foreign ministry source reported Saturday (21 January).

Media within Russia have faced heightened restrictions since the onset of the Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost one year ago. Shortly after it began in February 2022, new laws introduced by the Kremlin brought in penalties of up to 15 years for spreading “false information”, including describing the invasion as such.

As a result, numerous foreign outlets closed their Russian bureaus, and many independent media were forced to leave the country.

However, relocating editorial operations abroad has not been smooth sailing for all.

In December, exiled TV Rain (Dozhd), which was forced off the air in Russia in March 2022 and subsequently established bases in the EU, had its Latvian TV licence revoked after one of its journalists implied that the channel could contribute to the Russian war effort.

The presenter was subsequently fired, and TV Rain apologised to viewers. In January, Dutch regulators granted the station a new license, making its Amsterdam studio its main editorial centre but retaining its offices in Riga.

Russia’s exiled TV Rain licensed in Netherlands after Latvian removal

Independent Russian channel, TV Rain, has been granted a broadcasting license in the Netherlands after the permit it had been given by Latvia was revoked last month.