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European Broadcasting Union wants to interview Lavrov

01.06.2023, 14:13
Photo by Radio Liberty
Photo by Radio Liberty

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) plans to release a splashy TV interview with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in June, despite his record of bizarre anti-Ukraine hate speech, reports Euobserver.

The EBU press office told EUobserver on May 30 that the request for an interview with Lavrov had been sent "as part of our normal journalistic activities as independent public service media."

The event is to involve "three international correspondents" and be filmed by a "multi-camera TV news crew" at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, an EBU invitation letter said.

"The interview would focus on Moscow's view of the conflict in Ukraine," it said.

And it named Europe's leading public broadcasters — the ARD, BBC, France Télévisions, ITV, RAI, TRT, TVE, and ZDF — as those likely to put it online and on TV, despite what Lavrov might come out with, Euobserver writes.

The media outlet cited several instances of Lavrov's propagandist rhetoric and noted that the 73-year old diplomat is under an EU visa-ban and asset-freeze.

The EU has also muzzled Russian propaganda outlets, such as RT and Sputnik, for what it calls the Kremlin's "systematic, international campaign of media manipulation and distortion of facts".

When asked if ARD, BBC, ITV or any other EBU members had been consulted on the Lavrov invitation, an EBU spokeswoman said: "The Eurovision News Exchange provides content to EBU members who then each decide whether to broadcast or publish it".

Meanwhile, the EBU invitation letter pitched the Lavrov show in more gushing terms, Euobserver writes.

"I am writing on behalf of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and all our public broadcaster members … to request an unprecedented international interview," an EBU executive told Lavrov's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (who is also on an EU blacklist) on 6 April.

The EBU's two-page letter proposed a softball approach, saying: "The interview would focus on Moscow's view of the conflict in Ukraine, the effect of sanctions, the role of the EU and Nato".

Questions would also cover "Russia's efforts to forge alliances in a 'multi-polar world'."

The EBU declined to comment on the letter.

But it was leaked to EUobserver by a Western government official, highlighting the heightened tension inside Europe since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. And the government official wasn't the only one who thought the Lavrov invitation was bad form, Euobserver writes.

"The tone of the letter [to Zakharova] was embarrassing and distasteful, a pure act of kowtowing," said an anonymous complaint sent to selected "Dear Friends!" in the EBU's media network two weeks ago.

"Not a word about Russia's war crimes. Instead EBU is willingly offering Russia a podium for its war propaganda," said the whistleblowers, who signed their memo "Members of the EBU Staff".

"No EBU staff have contacted us regarding this matter," its Geneva-based press office told EUobserver.

"We are aware of an anonymous email from a non-EBU address which has been circulated only to third parties and which contained significant factual inaccuracies which lead us to doubt its authenticity," a spokeswoman added.

The EBU declined to say what the inaccuracies were or to put us in touch with staff representatives.

EUobserver emailed several EBU personnel on May 31, including in Brussels, Geneva, Jerusalem, and Zurich, to ask how they felt about inviting Lavrov on TV. Nobody wrote back, however.

We remind that the European Broadcasting Union is the association of television and radio broadcasters responsible for organizing the Eurovision song contest. In May, Kremlin agitprop the Eurovision Song Contest with homophobic hate-speech about Western "perverts", in a clash with the EBU's genteel values.

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