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Russia bans German broadcaster Deutsche Welle in tit-for-tat move

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced a ban on German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Thursday, effectively ending the organization's work in Russia, closing its Moscow bureau and revoking the accreditation of its journalists.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry announced a ban on German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Thursday, effectively ending the organization’s work in Russia, closing its Moscow bureau and revoking the accreditation of its journalists.

Moscow’s move came in swift retaliation for a decision on Wednesday by the Commission for Licensing and Supervision (ZAK), the agency responsible for regulating media outlets in Germany, banning Russian state-owned TV channel RT DE from broadcasting in the country due to its lack of a licence.

RT – formerly Russia Today – broadcasts internationally in six languages and claims that its German-language programming contributes to the diversity of opinion in Europe. Critics meanwhile accuse RT of being a Kremlin mouthpiece used to disseminate propaganda and disinformation.

“The situation is perfectly clear: a Russian media outlet, I would even say an international media outlet, has been banned from broadcasting in Germany. This is nothing less than an attack on freedom of speech,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday, according to the Interfax news agency.

Spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova had earlier in the day criticized the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for its silence following the German regulator’s decision, accusing it of failing to stand up for media freedom.

At a meeting with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow in January, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stressed that all state broadcasting is banned in Germany due to the central role the state media played under Nazism.

The move was anticipated by many observers. RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan had proposed making moves against Deutsche Welle earlier in the day, while the Foreign Ministry has in the past repeatedly threatened to take action against German media outlets and their correspondents in Moscow.

Deutsche Welle, or DW, is a German state-owned 24-hour news channel funded by the federal tax budget. It airs programming in German, English, Spanish and Arabic.

Earlier on Wednesday…

German media regulator demands RT stop German-language TV programming

A German media regulator demanded on Wednesday that Russian state broadcaster RT stop its German-language TV programming because it lacks the necessary authorization.

The Commission on Licensing and Supervision (ZAK), which oversees applications by private television and radio broadcasters, said RT had never applied for a license and one had never been granted.

In mid-December, RT launched its German-language TV programming via various distribution channels, including its website and satellite.

RT – formerly Russia Today – argued a Serbian broadcasting license it obtained applied to its German programming, called RT DE. German authorities disagreed and a case was quickly opened.

The judgement was announced on Wednesday. In it, ZAK rejected the Serbian license argument and ruled that RT DE Productions, based in Berlin, is responsible for the programming under German media law.

The editor-in-chief of RT in Moscow, Margarita Simonjan, called the decision “total bullshit.”

“We are not going to stop broadcasting,” she wrote on Telegram. RT said it had followed all applicable European law and that it would challenge the ruling in court.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said ZAK’s decision could have consequences for German reporters accredited in Russia, but did not elaborate.

Broadcasters need a license to transmit television programming nationwide in Germany, no matter the distribution channel.

YouTube blocked the TV channel on its platform a few hours after the broadcasts started in December, citing community guidelines. A few days later, the satellite operator Eutelsat also halted transmission.

RT is criticized in the West as a Kremlin propaganda tool. The main accusation is that the channel spreads conspiracy theories and disinformation on behalf of the Russian state. RT denies this.

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