The pro-Russian broadcaster RT DE is no longer allowed to broadcast in Germany. The Kremlin is indignant – and defends itself with “response measures” against the German media.
February 4 update at 9:50 p.m: France has criticized the ban on Deutsche Welle (DW) broadcasting in Russia. The French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday evening that freedom of information is a fundamental right that must be protected everywhere and to which France is deeply attached. The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press applies everywhere, be it in Russia or anywhere else in the world. France expresses its solidarity with Germany and the employees of Deutsche Welle’s Moscow office.
February 4 update at 6:03 p.m: Despite all the protests, Deutsche Welle had to close its Moscow office. The team stopped working early Friday evening after its accreditation was revoked, the broadcaster said on its website.
Russia threatens Scholz government – broadcaster boss points to Baerbock
Update from February 4, 3:10 p.m.: In the dispute over broadcasting bans for the Russian channel RT DE in Germany and Russia’s retaliation against Deutsche Welle (see first report) the rhetoric continues to intensify. “If Germany is out for escalation, then we will respond accordingly,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Friday in Moscow. She also added: “If Germany agrees to normalize the situation, then we will respond that we are ready to normalize the situation.”
How a normalization could look like, however, seems unclear: The German media regulators had cited the lack of a broadcasting license for Germany as the reason for the RT stop. Apparently, no license application had been made. DW, on the other hand, had a broadcasting license in Russia. Vladimir Putin’s government banned the operation of the channel on Thursday.
RT dispute with Russia: editor-in-chief points to Baerbock – EU sees “violation of media freedom”
The editor-in-chief of RT, Margarita Simonyan, said that to her knowledge, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock did not want to discuss the topic at her recent meeting with her colleague Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. According to her, Germany had also been proposed a compromise for a way out of the conflict.
Clear words also came from Germany and the EU. The federal government condemns the broadcasting ban on Deutsche Welle. “We urgently appeal to the Russian side not to abuse the broadcaster RT’s licensing problems to restrict freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” said a government spokesman on Friday. The measures are completely unfounded. Union foreign expert Jürgen Hardt sharply criticized: The broadcast ban throws a significant light on the way in which Putin imagines freedom of the press and media reporting in Russia.
“This decision by the Russian authorities is unacceptable and lacks any justification,” said the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Peter Stano, on Friday in Brussels. The Russian action is a “violation of media freedom” and shows the country’s disregard for media independence, the spokesman said. The EU expects Deutsche Welle to have full and fair access to legal remedies to challenge the decision in Russia.
Putin imposes a broadcast ban on German broadcasters: ARD, ZDF and Deutschlandradio condemn the ban
Update from February 3, 7:25 p.m.: The leaders of public broadcasting in Germany have condemned the Russian broadcasting ban on the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW). ARD Chairwoman Patricia Schlesinger, ZDF Director Thomas Bellut and Deutschlandradio Director Stefan Raue said in a statement on Thursday: “Free, independent reporting is radically restricted here in order to exert political pressure. The fact that freedom of the press is being made a bargaining chip at the same time fills us with great concern.”
She supports her colleagues at DW in Russia, who are now threatened with a work ban, and to whom one feels connected through their role as public media.
Update from February 3, 7:15 p.m.: The Federal Foreign Office in Berlin sees the Kremlin’s announced ban on Deutsche Welle (DW) as a renewed strain on German-Russian relations. “The measures that the Russian government announced today against Deutsche Welle have no basis whatsoever and represent a renewed strain on German-Russian relations,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman on Thursday. The ministry warned that the move would severely restrict free reporting. “We firmly reject the comparison between Deutsche Welle and the broadcaster RT DE,” said the Foreign Office. Deutsche Welle works as an independent media institution “on the basis of applicable laws and with the appropriate approval”.
The Russian broadcaster RT DE, on the other hand, is currently working without a license and has not applied for a license, although the distribution of the radio program requires a license. The spokeswoman referred to the decision-making power of the state media authorities. “The same rules apply to RT DE as to all other broadcasters – also with regard to the aspect of being remote from the state. The federal government cannot and must not influence the procedure,” emphasized the spokeswoman.
Update from February 3, 5:50 p.m.: Sharp criticism of the broadcasting ban on Deutsche Welle in Russia: Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens) has criticized the ban on the foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) in Russia. “The broadcast ban on Deutsche Welle in Russia and the closure of its office in Moscow are in no way acceptable,” she said on Thursday. The decision was obviously intended as a counter-reaction to the broadcast stop of the Russian television channel RT DE in Germany.
“However, the equation has no basis whatsoever,” emphasized Roth. RT DE is currently broadcasting without a license and has not applied for a license. This is “a completely different situation” than that of Deutsche Welle. “DW is also organized independently of the state,” explained the Minister of State for Culture and the Media. “That means, unlike RT DE, the German state has no influence on programming.” She therefore urgently appeals to the Russian side “not to abuse the broadcaster RT’s licensing problems for a political reaction”. “Clear steps towards de-escalation are necessary,” explained Roth.
“Retribution” for RT stop: Putin bans German broadcasters
First report from February 3, 2:40 p.m.:
Berlin – Tensions between Russia and Germany – not only because of the Ukraine crisis: The Russian television channel RT (formerly Russia Today) is no longer allowed to broadcast in this country. The Commission for Approval and Supervision (ZAK) approved the distribution of the RT television channel in Germany on Wednesday – also via live stream on the Internet or via app. She justified the step by saying that the broadcaster lacked the “required media law approval”. The Kremlin reacted with outrage – and announced “retaliatory measures” for German media.
Dispute over RT: Kremlin announces ‘retaliatory measures’
The Russian Foreign Ministry spoke of a “politically motivated” decision. The ministry announced that there would be a reaction on Thursday. “This is nothing more than a violation of freedom of expression,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. In an article on its website, RT itself spoke of a “growing diplomatic dispute over media freedom”. German politicians are “afraid of an alternative point of view that the German-speaking audience can access on RT DE”.
Shortly after the announcement, the Russian government took action: Russia issued a broadcast ban on Deutsche Welle, the foreign broadcaster of the Federal Republic of Germany. In addition, the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered the closure of the correspondent’s office in Moscow on Thursday and the withdrawal of journalists’ accreditations. In addition, sanctions are planned against “representatives of German state and public structures involved in restricting the broadcasting of RT,” the ministry said.
RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan had previously indicated that the Russian countermeasures could be aimed at Deutsche Welle, among other things. “We should actually try that,” Simonyan wrote on Telegram. The 41-year-old maintains good relations with the Kremlin. Moscow also announced “response measures” towards German journalists accredited in Russia.
RT DE: Dispute also at Baerbock meetings with Lavrov topic
The television channel RT DE was launched on December 16th. The very next day, the Berlin-Brandenburg Media Authority initiated media law proceedings to examine RT DE Productions GmbH, based in Berlin. However, RT DE could still be received via the Internet. Since it was a nationwide program, the final decision rested with the ZAK.
The RT cause has been causing differences between Moscow and Berlin for years. In September, RT already sensed a “real media war that the state of Germany is declaring against the state of Russia”. The dispute over the broadcasting license was also a recent topic at the meeting between Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Putin’s minister attacked Germany several times*, Baerbock made it clear: “Intervention by the German federal government would also contradict our German constitution.”
RT: The extended arm of the Kremlin
RT is part of the media company Rossiya Sevodnja (Russia today), which also includes Sputnik. The station has several international branches, for example in Spanish or Arabic. The offer varies by country and is individually tailored to the target group. For example, RT Arabic has more news about the Middle East, which is intended to build trust with the reader.
The German channel RT Deutsch has existed since 2014 and was renamed RT DE in 2020. According to their own statement, the offshoot RTs are consumed in more than 100 countries. The reach is large and so is the opportunity to focus on Russia’s interests. RT is considered an extension of the Kremlin and its most important tool in the fight for public opinion. The texts are intended to mention the Russian perspective on global political issues and counteract the “aggressive propaganda” of the West. “RT DE gives its audience an insight into the logic, interests and views of Russia,” reads the RT website.
In this context, the Kremlin around President Vladimir Putin* relies on the strategy of nation branding. This is the goal of using strategic communication to bring a country closer to an external audience. The fact that RT was not available in Russian until 2014 shows how much a non-Russian audience is intended to be addressed. In Germany, this strategy has now been dampened by the decision of the ZAK. RT announced legal action against the decision. (as) *Merkur.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA
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