Correspondent in Berlin
Although Vladimir Putin has progressively taken control of the media in Russia, never until now had any Western media dared to intervene. This Thursday, however, and in retaliation for the decision of a German regulatory body against the Russian network RT, Moscow has ordered the closure of the local newsroom of the German television station Deutsche Welle, an outside television service broadcast in Russian, English, Chinese and Spanish. The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced the decision as “the withdrawal of accreditation from all its employees and the interruption of broadcasts on Russian territory”, in addition to a process to recognize Deutsche Welle as a “foreign agent”, a qualification that already applies to various other media.
Sources from the Moscow Foreign Ministry have also anticipated that there will be more sanctions against “representatives of German state and public structures involved in the restriction of RT broadcasts.” A few hours earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov had declared that the German regulatory body’s ban on RT was a “deliberate attack.”
The Presidente de Deutsche Welle, Peter Limbourg, has described this measure as “incomprehensible and excessive”. Deutsche Welle “protests against this absurd reaction”, it has said, and has promised to “strengthen its coverage of Russia”, while the German Minister of Culture and Media, Claudia Roth, has described the decision as “unacceptable” and has said that the situations of both media «are not comparable».
Less than 24 hours before Moscow’s reaction, Germany’s media regulator, the Commission for the Supervision of Mass Media (ZAK), had banned the Russian television channel Russia Today from broadcasting on its territory ( RT) alleging that the necessary license has not been requested nor has the authorization required by the current Media Law been granted, despite the fact that RT has been broadcasting since 2005. The Russian television network had responded that it broadcasts from Moscow and that he has a license from Serbia to broadcast by cable and by satellite, which in his opinion allows him to broadcast in Germany in accordance with the directives of the European Union. “We cannot understand why a supposedly informed and independent regulator acts based on what appears to be an exclusively political motivation, based on a false version of reality that serves its purposes,” said a spokesman for the chain, who did not is able to refute, however, the German regulator’s assertions that it has a Berlin-based newsroom without any “legitimate permission under European law.”
moment of tension
The ZAK verdict, prompted by a request from the media authority of Berlin and Brandenburg (MABB), comes at a time of enormous tension between the governments of Russia and Germany, fundamentally due to the crisis in Ukraine and a few days before the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, visits Moscow. In Germany, the RT network has received numerous criticisms for its editorial line and its limited respect for the facts in the information it broadcasts, which have been systematically rejected by the network’s director, Margarita Simonyan. “The verdict of the German media regulator is an unequivocal sign that Russia’s concerns are being ignored and it can be shown that Western countries do not want Russian arguments to be heard,” he said, as well as guaranteeing that the channel “does not will stop broadcasting.
The RT chain, as a consequence of the lack of a license, has already been blocked from the European Satellite Network at the request of the German authorities, although it remains accessible on the Web and through a mobile application, pending a judicial appeal that the address hopes to present shortly.
Vladimir Soloviev, president of the Union of Russian Journalists, has declared for his part to the Russian news agency Tass that Germany seeks to “prohibit an alternative point of view”, violating the “principles of freedom of expression”.