Baltic States against RT: Is it a Voice Crying in the Wilderness?

Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTC) on 8 July placed broadcasting of programs of TV channel RT controlled by the Kremlin in the territory of Lithuania under a ban. Some time ago, on 30 June Latvian National Elec…

Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTC) on 8 July placed broadcasting of programs of TV channel RT controlled by the Kremlin in the territory of Lithuania under a ban. Some time ago, on 30 June Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council (LNEMMC) made the same decision. Lithuania together with Latvia and Estonia asked the European Commission to make clarification of   the sanctions imposed on this propaganda Russian TV channel already in February. The Baltic States encouraged other states of the EU to follow suit. However, Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania after the decision made by Latvia admitted that the EU had no unanimous strategy in regards to imposition of sanctions. 
We can hardly expect that the old members of the EU will also try to stop this Russian information weapon. Nevertheless, the reaction of both Russian propagandists and politicians demonstrate that the Baltic States made a serious tread on Moscow’s corns.
We can see that the decisions of both Lithuania and Latvia are at least officially not related to the contents of the broadcasted news by these propagandistic channels but with the fact that seven propagandistic TV channels of the Kremlin – RT, RT HD, RT Arabic, RT Spanish, RT Documentary HD and RT Documentary are under control of Dmitry Kiselyov, to whom the EU has imposed sanctions in regards to violation of territorial integrity of Ukraine. Besides, the official statement of the LNEMMC added that had called Latvia a ‘failed state’ several times. ‘Our available evidence is very serious, thus we will ask all regulators of the EU to follow our suit and restrict broadcasting of in their territories. There is no place for these programs neither in Latvia nor the European Union’, Ivaras Abolinš, Head of the LNEMMC announced.
 
Sanctions of two Baltic States against the best known in the West propaganda channels of the Kremlin caused irritation of Moscow, which later turned into exasperation. Right after the decision of Latvia D. Kiselyov, who is the Head of media group Rossia Segodnia that owns the news agency RIA Novosti and the portal for foreign auditorium Sputnik News, told he had nothing to do with that was previously known as Russia Today
‘This means silliness, incompetence and Russophobe of the decision-makers in Latvia. I think that Latvians should apologize to and return it to the ether’, D. Kiselyov told in the radio interview to Govorit Moskva. Meanwhile Margarita Simonyan, Editor in Chief of in her social network Twitter profile made fun of the decision of Riga in such words: ‘Intelligence of Latvia thinks that D. Kiselyov is responsible for . If the intelligence is like that, we have no need to worry’.    
Maybe there is no need to worry, however shortly after the Kremlin politicians joined those who felt indignation with the decision of the Baltic States. Two days after the decision of the LRTC Information Policy and Media Relations Committee of the Russian Federation Council urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to examine options for taking counter sanctions against authorities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (that put a ban on activities of propaganda channel of the Kremlin ). Russian politicians see the decision to stop destructive activities of the Russian channels as ‘the act of political censorship’, that looks like a coordinated campaign against the Russian media by ‘violating provisions of international legal acts’.      
Previously Maria Zakharova, representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia reacted to the decision of Latvia and urged the international authorities to evaluate actions of Riga. According to her, such discriminative actions of the Latvian authorities against Russian media, open attempts to clean the information space from alternative and supposedly unwanted approaches is a gross violation of international law.
We should note that the international organization “Reporters Without Borders’ (RWB) obeyed Moscow, that is fighting for freedom of the press in the whole world, the declaration of which was immediately published by . The declaration said that RWB denounced actions of the Baltic States and noted that sanctions of the EU or measures to fight against ‘Russian propaganda’ were not lawful. ‘Although it is lawful to protect and encourage spreading of independent and reliable news reportages, RWB considers these bans as abuse of EU political sanctions. Prohibition or closure of media is not a part of sanctions imposed on Kiselyov’, the declaration told.
The fact that the organization that protects the freedom of information cannot see the difference between the media and propaganda weapon, is very symptomatic and suggests that most Western countries, although they understand the real goals and purpose or , will ignore the incitement of the Baltic States and will not try to stop the propaganda stream directed towards them or at least consider other conclusions. Let’s say, the ones given by the organization European Values Centre located in Czech Republic that last year published a report in which states of Europe were incited not to consider and Sputnik channels as representatives of ‘free press’ and not allow them to take part in press conferences. 
Some time ago, in October 2017 the mentioned organization announced a list of 2,327 American, British and European politicians, diplomats and servicemen who had been guests of at a certain time. The document was called ‘Kremlin’s Platform is ‘Useful for Idiots’ in the West’ and it said that the list was meant to identify those who ‘confer their name and standing to the channel’ and who are accused of their objective ‘to harm principles of democracy’. The US Democratic Party Committee also advised to avoid and and published a list of recommendations for fighting disinformation on the Internet.   
London has also imposed certain sanctions against . In summer 2019 journalists of this TV chain and agency Sputnik were not given accreditations to participate in the Global Conference for Media Freedom. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom explained its rejection to give accreditation by an active role of and in spreading fake information. Until then the British communications regulator Ofcom accused of violating the broadcasting code.   
Whatever defenders of media freedom say, in whatever means Russia tried to present as one more global television network such as or France 24, just suggesting a different approach than the Western news channels, a great deal of people in the West understand that deals in a broad disinformation campaign, the objective of which is to plant the seeds of doubt in democratic institutions and destabilize the West.
This became very obvious when the office of the former President Barrack Obama and the intelligence in 2016 stated that Vladimir Putin ordered to start a campaign that had to ‘undermine trust of the public in democratic processes in the US’, to discredit the candidate of Democratic party Hillary Clinton by taking over the internal correspondence of this party and support Donald Trump, who promised to improve relations with Russia’.
This information attack has been implemented by using several means: real information that sometimes was taken from open sources and sometimes stolen and fake notifications and fake news announced on and that later were reproduced in social media. To this end they used bots that sent thousands of notices to social networks such as and .   
Does it mean that the USA and states of the Western Europe will take certain measures against as were taken by the Baltic States? Hardly, because as The New York Times wrote experts did not agree in regards to influence of . Pointing to very low ratings of this channel in the US, most of them think that talks about efficiency of this Russian propaganda weapon have been too exaggerated. On the other hand, Peter Pomerancev, the British journalist who was born in the Soviet Union and has been living in Russia for a decade in Vladimir Putin time told to the same daily that if we looked just at the ratings we might miss something very important. ‘Ratings are not most interesting to them. Their interest is financial, political and information influence’.
Not even to mention the Western Europe, especially the old and loyal simpatico of Russia, such as France. Let’s remember that the member of the Parliament of this country Nicolas Dhuicqa, who went to the Crimea annexed by Russia with a delegation of members of the Parliament in 2015, told to the same and tried to justify the propaganda war carried out by the channel telling that ‘the objective of is to make the voice of Russia to be heard and reach the attitude of Russia to be heard worldwide’.    
It does not seem that the position of the influential old members of the EU has changed significantly ever since. This suggests that the urge of the Baltic States to shut this weapon of the Kremlin in all Europe would remain just a voice crying in the wilderness.   
Aras Lukšas

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