Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has accused Lithuania and Latvia of misusing EU sanctions to ban Russia’s propaganda TV channel RT, an allegation dismissed by Lithuania’s media watchdog.
The Latvian and Lithuanian media regulators have in recent weeks banned RT television, formerly known as Russia Today, saying that it is controlled by Dmitry Kiselyov, who’s under EU sanctions for his role in promoting Kremlin’s propaganda during the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
“While it is legitimate to defend and promote independent and reliable news reporting, RSF regards these closures as a misuse of the EU sanctions policy,” RSF, the international press freedom NGO, said in a statement.
“Banning or closing media is not part of the sanctions adopted against Kiselyov. Regardless of the aggressiveness of Russian propaganda in Europe, EU sanctions are not a legitimate or appropriate tool for combating it,” the organization said.
“Rather than banning media outlets on loose grounds and on a flimsy legal basis, countries can require all media to guarantee editorial independence and can then impose legitimate sanctions, subject to judicial control, when it is established that media outlets have not complied with their obligations.”
“Imposing the same requirements on all media outlets (regardless of their country of origin) makes it possible to avoid retaliatory measures from countries waging information wars.”
Mantas Martišius, the chairman of the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania (LRTK), defended the move as both legitimate and proportionate.
“The European Commission was asked to give its opinion about the extension of sanctions, and said that it did not see any problems,” Martišius told BNS.
“Having received the material from the Foreign Ministry, LRTK did not see any reasons to question or reject it,” he said.
“In fact, the situation can be resolved in a very simple way. Russia withdraws from the occupied territories of Ukraine and then EU sanctions become meaningless, or Kiselyov steps down from the management position at Rossiya Segodnya,” the chairman said.
“Since it’s not the first time that the EU’s sanctions regime is applied to the so-called propaganda media controlled by the Kremlin, we may say that such moves are legitimate, at least in legal terms, and do not disproportionately extend the EU’s sanctions regime,” he added.
Moscow denies that Kiselyov is in charge of RT and describes the ban as “an unfriendly decision”.