Eric Munch (Observer)
09 June, 2022
Further measures taken by several media NRAs, different stances on combatting disinformation and propaganda
Following a series of articles on media regulators' reactions to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia published earlier this year, the EPRA Secretariat has continued to monitor the various measures taken by media NRAs in the EPRA network as well as to document differences in approach on the topic of combatting propaganda and disinformation on Russian state-controlled outlets.
Baltic regulators extend restrictions, Montenegro joins in on the RT and Sputnik ban
On 9 March, the Lithuanian regulator RTCL suspended retransmission of TV Channel Mir for five years. Additionally, RTCL issued orders to Internet service providers to block access to 57 websites disseminating disinformation and war propaganda. On 20 April, RTCL announced the suspension of retransmission of 32 television programmes controlled by Gazprom-Media in Lithuania.
On 9 March, the Estionian regulator CTRA issued an order to telecommunication companies to stop retransmitting RBK (also known as RBC TV). On 15 March, CTRA ordered Estonian Internet service providers to restrict access to 7 Russia-based websites on the grounds of them disseminating propaganda and hate speech, before extending the ban to 4 more websites posing a threat to public order, on 8 April - raising the total to 11 websites and 7 TV channels blocked in Estonia.
On 19 April, the Agency for Electronic Media of Montenegro called on all service providers to immediately remove contents and programmes emanating from RT and Sputnik from their services. All broadcasting licences, permits and transmission and distribution arrangements (by any means), are suspended.
On 6 June, the Latvian regulator NEPLP banned the broadcasting of all 80 remaining TV channels registered in Russia and issued a license to Dozhd, a Russian independent television channel which was shut down in early March, following the adoption of Russia's 2022 Laws Establishing War Censorship and Prohibiting Anti-War Statements and Calls for Sanctions. On 10 June, the Regional Administrative Court in Riga also rejected the request of SIA Pirmais Baltijas kanāls (PBK) to suspend the decision by NEPLP to revoke the broadcasting licences for Pirmais Baltijas kanāls Lietuva and Pirmais Baltijas kanāls Estonia. Their licences had been revoked in April because their owner had violated the international sanctions targeting Russia.
Different stances on restricting Russian state-controled outlets and freedom of expression
A few countries and/or media NRAs have taken a different stance on restricting Russian state-controled outlets, owing notably to a strong protection of freedom of expression in the national legal frameworks and the perception of a resilient public sphere.
On 26 April, the Norwegian Minister of Culture and Equality Anette Trettebergstuen announced that no sanctions would be taken against RT and Sputnik, in line with recommendations made by the Norwegian media regulator, NMA. NMA and the Norwegian Government have assessed that "the Norwegian society and the public are able to resist manipulation attempts from Russian state-owned media", according to Mari Velsand, NMA Director General. Freedom of expression enjoys a strong protection under the Norwegian Constitution and both the Government and NMA considered that the threshold to restrict freedom of expression was not reached, as RT and Sputnik do not pose threats to basic societal functions in Norway. In this context, NMA's view is that media literacy is the best tool against Russian propaganda.
In a similar development, the Swiss Federal Council - the executive branch of the federal government of the Swiss Confederation - decided not to restrict access to RT and Sputnik, despite following the EU on the rest of their sanctions. The Federal Council considers that opposing false information with facts is more efficient than banning them.
In addition to taking position to restrict access - or not, as seen above - to some state-controlled Russian programmes, several regulators have taken various measures to protect viewers against the content related to the war or to help Ukrainian refugees.
The Polish regulator KRRiT announced as soon as 11 March that regional Polish radios would start broadcasting programmes specifically for Ukrainian refugees; with notifications on the situation at border crossings, deployment of reception points and open routes for humanitarian convoys.
The German Media Regulators published a call on 7 April to all media professionals, service providers and social networks to ensure that potentially harmful images from Ukraine do not spread to children.
Do not hesitate to share new developments with the EPRA Secretariat!
Source: Websites of media NRAs member of the EPRA network and other relevant sources
Image credit: Serhii Ivashchuk