Russia bans Deutsche Welle in response to German court decision on RT DE - RFE/RL
Russia says it is shutting down the operations of Deutsche Welle (DW) in response to the closure of Russia's state-controlled RT DE earlier this week, a move the German broadcaster called "absurd" as it vowed to continue broadcasting, as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in a statement on February 3 that it was canceling the accreditation of all staff at DW's Russian bureau, as well as halting all broadcasts by the media outlet on Russian territory. It added that these were the "first stage" of measures aimed at the German company, with the following steps "to be published in a timely manner."
The statement also said that measures will be initiated to start a procedure to officially label DW as a "foreign agent" and to bar German officials and other individuals involved in the decision to ban RT's broadcasting in Germany from entering Russia.
Deutsche Welle said it was being made a pawn "in a way that media only have to experience in autocracies."
"We formally protest against this absurd reaction of the Russian government and will take legal action," Deutsche Welle Director Peter Limbourg said in a statement.
The announcement came a day after a German media regulatory panel ruled that RT DE must cease broadcasting its German-language programs in the country, reaffirming a ruling in December that said RT lacks the necessary license.
It also comes amid rising tensions between the West and Moscow over Russia's buildup of tens of thousands of troops in areas around the border with Ukraine. Germany, among many countries, has called on the Kremlin to de-escalate the situation by pulling its soliders and hardware back from the border.
Though Moscow denies any ill intent saying it can place its troops anywhere it likes on Russian soil, many fear the amassing of so much military might along the border could be a prelude to a new incursion into Ukraine by Russia.
Hours before the statement on Deutsche Welle, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the German decision to ban RT broadcasting in Germany "nothing but an infringement on freedom of speech."
Also on February 3, Russia’s envoy at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Aleksandr Lukashevich asked the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Teresa Ribeiro, to react to what he called "this egregious situation."
German media regulators opened proceedings after RT claimed a license it holds in Serbia for satellite transmission gives it the right to broadcast in Germany under a Council of Europe agreement to which both countries are party.
The commission’s ruling on February 2 said RT DE needed a license that conformed with Germany's State Media Treaty, and that RT could not replace it with a different license. The commission said transmission of RT DE was "prohibited because it does not have the necessary broadcasting license."
Launched in 2005 as Russia Today, state-funded RT has continually expanded its broadcasts and websites in languages including English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
The channel has been banned in several countries, including the ex-Soviet republics, now EU and NATO member-states, Lithuania and Latvia.
In the United states, it was required to register as a foreign agent, and British authorities have threatened to revoke its broadcasting license.
DW, a German state-owned broadcaster, has its service available in 30 languages, including Russian.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
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