Russia is to expel the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) in retaliation for a German ban on broadcasts by Russia’s RT.
The foreign ministry said the press credentials of DW’s correspondents would be revoked, its bureau in Russia closed, and its German-language broadcasts would be banned from Russian satellite television in the near future. It said this was the first stage of its “retaliatory measures”.
The move marks an escalation in Russia’s media war with the west, in which there have already been expulsions of a BBC journalist and a Dutch reporter in the last year. It comes during a period of heightened geopolitical tensions as western governments have accused Russia of preparing to launch an attack on Ukraine and threatened crippling sanctions.
On Wednesday German authorities banned broadcasts by RT DE, the broadcaster’s German-language channel, saying its Serbian license was invalid in Germany. A Kremlin spokesperson called the political decision and said it was “nothing but an attack on freedom of expression”.
Russia has said it will retaliate against journalists when foreign governments target RT, a state-funded news agency that western governments have accused of spreading propaganda.
Ultimately, the foreign ministry went beyond a tit-for-tat decision to ban DW’s broadcasts, in effect blocking the broadcaster’s ability to report on the ground in Russia. RT DE journalists were not stripped of their accreditation as part of the German government decision.
The Russian foreign ministry also said it would initiate a procedure to recognize Deutsche Welle as a “foreign agent” in Russia and it would draft a list of German state and public figures who were “involved in restricting the broadcasting of RT DE and otherwise putting pressure on a Russian media operator”. They would be banned from entering Russia, the ministry said.
DW’s CEO, Peter Limbourg, said in a broadcast interview that Moscow’s retaliation exceeded his expectations. “We had been expecting some measures by the Russian side, but I think this is a total overreaction from the Russian government,” he said, adding that it was “another sign that the Russian government is not interested in press freedom and freedom of opinion ”.
He said: “Even if we have to leave the country, we will intensify our reporting on the country. We will not just ignore what is happening in Russia, we will report. And we will do more and more.”
RT’s head, Margarita Simonyan, hailed the decision and suggested that further retaliation could lead to all German media being expelled.
RT DE had already been under considerable pressure. YouTube removed the channel from its site last year. On Wednesday the Russian foreign ministry said it would retaliate against “internet intermediaries” that had blocked the channel, in an apparent warning to YouTube.
RT has been required to register as a foreign agent in the US and has faced heightened scrutiny from Ofcom in the UK. The regulator has fined RT for breaching impartiality rules in its coverage of Syria and the Salisbury poisoning.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism