Baerbock in Russia: Putin’s foreign minister upset over RT broadcast stop

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From: Bedrettin Bölükbaşı

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was received in Moscow by her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. © Uncredited/Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/AP/dpa

During Baerbock’s visit to Moscow, the broadcast stop for the Kremlin broadcaster RT DE was apparently also discussed. At the press conference, Lavrov threatened countermeasures.

Moscow/Munich – It was a severe setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The plan to obtain a broadcasting license in Germany for the Russian broadcaster RT did not work out. The station, which is considered an extension of the Kremlin and represents pro-Russian positions, was to be broadcast in German households with this license.

However, as early as August of last year, it was leaked that the application would be rejected. The reason for this was apparently state funding and thus the fact that the station, which is often understood as a Russian propaganda tool, was not remote from the state. A broadcast freeze was imposed just a few days after the broadcast began. At a press conference with Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov openly threatened countermeasures.

Baerbock explains RT status and rejects allegations of interference – “would be against the constitution”

Everything seemed to be going well for RT DE at first. In Germany you couldn’t get a license, but Serbia rushed to help. There, TV Novosti – RT’s parent organization – received a license thanks to which RT DE went on the air on 16 December via operator Eutelsat. However, the independent supervisory authority Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg initiated proceedings for a license that had not been applied for and was missing just one day after the start of the broadcast. The result: Eutelsat stopped broadcasting on December 22nd.

At the joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during her visit to Moscow, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock commented on the subject when asked by an RT representative. The Russian journalist complained about “massive discrimination”. Nowhere was their work as difficult as in Germany. Baerbock then explained that RT DE had been producing in Germany for years, broadcasting via the Internet, and had unrestricted access to journalistic activities and to federal press conferences.

Baerbock strictly rejected the accusation of state interference. This is not the case here. There is only one decision by the YouTube platform, since RT DE violated the terms of use with incorrect information. The Federal Government has nothing to do with the current status of the broadcaster, assured the Foreign Minister and added: “Intervention by the German Federal Government would also contradict our German constitution.”

Lavrov makes serious allegations in the RT dispute – Putin’s top diplomat sees interference from the federal government

The same journalist then turned to Baerbock’s Russian counterpart Lavrov and asked for his support. The top Russian diplomat and Putin confidant went much deeper and longer. His answer quite openly contained accusations and threats. He initially stated that Russia was already supporting the RT case and was concerned about its journalists.

At this point, Lavrov contradicted Baerbock’s statement that alleged interference by the federal government was not true. According to Lavrov, Moscow assumes that the federal government has a certain connection to the incident. German authorities were not prepared to issue a license. Lavrov also accused the federal government of having influenced other countries in this regard. He is certain that Berlin in particular has used all means to prevent the granting of a license in other countries that RT DE has approached.

Although the license issued in Serbia complies with all European conventions, the German regulator blocked the transfer, Lavrov said. Russia is therefore of the opinion that there is certainly interference in the activities of journalists, emphasized Putin’s foreign minister.

Lavrov openly threatened German journalists several times that Moscow could prevent the work of German media

Lavrov’s allegations were followed by several clear threats from the Foreign Minister about the work of German journalists in Russia. Moscow would like the channel to be approved and has no interest in acting in the same way, Lavrov said. He warned that if RT DE were not to be broadcast further, it might be necessary to prevent the activities of German media in the Russian Federation. The most important thing is that Russian journalists feel comfortable and are not discriminated against.

Apparently Sergei Lavrov could not repeat his threats often enough. Immediately after his clear statements, he finally summarized and repeated himself. Although his government does not want to create obstacles for German journalists, it must take countermeasures if necessary. In conclusion, Lavrov wished for a more relaxed question, but again a Russian journalist was interested in the status of RT. Baerbock again underlined the freedom of the press in Germany, but referred to the legal situation in the Federal Republic, which prohibits state broadcasting. (bb)

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