European Union Bans Sputnik, RT Media Outlets

European Union Bans Sputnik, RT Media Outlets

Lawmakers who introduced the ban argued that RT News and Sputnik were attempting to spread disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda.

The Russian state-run Sputnik and RT media outlets have been banned from broadcasting and publishing within the European Union (EU). The decision was made as part of a broader sanctions package against Russia its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The ban legally blocks both outlets from operating within the EU, and subjects EU media outlets that publish their content to fines. Earlier in the week, Facebook and YouTube agreed to block the two outlets’ channels on their platforms within Europe. Apple and Google removed their apps from the companies’ respective app stores.

Although the EU’s decision has been celebrated by many who support Ukraine in the war, it has also drawn mixed responses from civil liberties advocates, who have cited press freedom protections in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The lawmakers who introduced the ban argued that the platforms were attempting to spread disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda and could no longer be allowed to operate as part of Russia’s foreign policy.

“In this time of war, words matter,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a press release. “We are witnessing massive propaganda and disinformation over this outrageous attack on a free and independent country. We will not let Kremlin apologists pour their toxic lies justifying Putin’s war or sow the seeds of division in our Union.”

The EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, explained the decision to ban the platforms by arguing that their manipulation of public opinion in the West had been “applied as an operational tool in [Russia’s] assault on Ukraine.”

Borrell characterized the outlets as a “significant and direct threat to the Union’s public order and security,” in a European Council press release.

Russia has been widely criticized in the Western world for its use of disinformation to plant discord within other nations. The RT satellite news network, formerly known as “Russia Today,” has been singled out for criticism, and was forced to register as an agent of a foreign government within the United States in 2017.

RT’s deputy editor-in-chief, Anna Belkina, condemned the EU’s decision, arguing that officials had not “pointed to a single example, a single grain of evidence that what RT has reported over these days, and continues to report, is not true,” according to the network.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.