Europe seeks legal route to shut down Russian TV – POLITICO

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The EU has pledged to ban Kremlin-backed media, RT and Sputnik. Now he just has to figure out how to execute this politically risky decision – legally.

Less than 24 hours after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that news outlets would be taken off the air as part of a broader sanctions package against Russia, questions have already arisen on how to implement the ban and whether Moscow will retaliate.

“We are looking for the best legal route to ensure we can achieve our goals,” EU chief executive spokesman Eric Mamer told reporters at Monday’s midday press briefing.

The Commission is likely to present, potentially as early as Monday, an ad hoc text to EU capitals that would provide national regulators and online platforms with the legal basis to remove RT and Sputnik.

The EU took decisive action against RT after days of mounting pressure as Russian troops sealed off several Ukrainian towns, shelling them along the way. Formerly known as today’s Russia, RT has been described in the West as a propaganda tool that the Kremlin uses to spread pro-Russian rhetoric and justify its invasion of Ukraine. The proposed ban comes amid thinly veiled Russian nuclear threats and an escalating information war, and as Moscow intensifies its crackdown on foreign platforms and local media.

Brussels and European capitals are also seeking to disable sprawling Kremlin-backed media websites and social media accounts that reach European citizens in different languages, including French, English and Spanish.

Yet even with the support of all 27 members, the EU decision is a political decision that now needs to be translated into practical and legal measures. And the rules usually applied to broadcasters do not seem relevant in times of war.

“Media regulation is really not suitable for immediate action, because it is based on the principle of independence and freedom of expression, freedom of the media,” said Ľuboš Kukliš, head of the Slovak media regulator . “Thus, the Commission should take other routes if it wants to ban these media immediately,” he added, referring to economic sanctions.

Political risk

On Monday, the European Commission and the French government both had to respond to criticism that banning RT and Sputnik could amount to censorship. It is a line of channels supported by Russia themselves, including RT Franceare also using to protest the decision.

“I hear a debate on freedom of expression, it does not equate to any media that operates on French and European territory,” said French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune. French Radio Europe 1. “Having structurally organized media in relay of the Kremlin in our democracies, in times of war, is not acceptable.”

Julien Nocetti, a digital policy and Russia expert at the St-Cyr Military Academy, said the ban announcement was “interesting” because it showed “a certain consensus within the EU on these media supported by the Russian state”.

However, he warned, “this could be dangerous as Moscow could retaliate against European media and journalists in Russia, limiting our on-the-ground understanding of the country.”

There is already a precedent for this. Moscow recently banned German state media Deutsche Welle from reporting and broadcasting in Russia after the German media regulator shut down the German version of RT.

The European Broadcasting Union, which represents public television stations such as France Télévisions, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The BBC declined to comment.

Options on the table

The European Commission will likely rely on a Council decision to move the ban forward, two EU officials said. (A spokesperson declined to immediately confirm.)

This raises the bar compared to the usual route, where national regulators retain the power to decide whether or not to remove a channel from the air.

Last week, Polish and Estonian media watchdogs did just that with Russian broadcasters, and French regulator Arcom is currently assessing an NGO complaint against RT France. A spokesperson for Arcom said Monday it had no further information on how to implement von der Leyen’s announcement.

The European network of national media regulators (ERGA) indicated that it was unable to comment on the subject.

In the meantime, the leaders of the Baltic states and Poland have called on Google and Facebook to curb Russian disinformation, including by limiting social media accounts and online distribution channels of Kremlin-backed media. On the same day, French digital ministers asked companies including Facebook, Google and Microsoft to block RT and Sputnik, according to three people with direct knowledge of the meeting.

On Sunday evening, senior Commission officials Věra Jourová and Thierry Breton stepped up pressure on the CEOs of YouTube and Google, asking them to take “urgent” action to tackle Russian disinformation.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook announcement On Monday evening, it would restrict access to RT and Sputnik across the EU. YouTube said on Saturday it would “significantly limit” recommendations for RT and several Russian state-run media channels.

Twitter followed suit on Monday, announcing that it would begin labeling and limiting the visibility of tweets with links to Russian state-affiliated media outlets.

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