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Updated Jun 25, 2024, 12:30pm EDT
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Semafor Signals

Kremlin bans 81 European news outlets as Russia prepares to put US journalist on trial

Insights from Mimikama, The Hill, and The Conversation

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REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
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The News

Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued bans on the distribution of 81 media outlets from 25 European Union member states on Tuesday. The bans are a retaliation to the EU’s own block on some Russian outlets and broadcasters, issued in May.

The ministry accused the European outlets — including France’s Agence France-Presse, Austria’s ORF state TV company, Ireland’s RTE broadcaster, and Politico — of “systematically distributing inaccurate information” about Russia’s “special military operation” — the Kremlin’s terminology for the war in Ukraine.

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The ministry said the ban may be lifted if the EU removes its restrictions on RIA, Izvestia and the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, which the EU has accused of being Kremlin propaganda.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Tit-for-tat bans are a ‘dangerous game’

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Mimikama

While Moscow’s ban further tightens the Kremlin’s grip on information getting in and out of Russia, the European Union’s ban on Russian outlets is also part of a “dangerous game,” as it risks continuing down a slippery slope of restricting freedom of speech, a core value for the EU, argued Mimikama, an Austrian fact-checking site. ”The real losers are the citizens,” Mimikama wrote, adding that a ban on Russian content could erode public confidence that Brussels will tolerate criticism of the bloc from the media at large.

Advisories — not bans — may be more effective in Europe

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The Hill

EU bans on Russian content have limited success: There are myriad other pro-Russian outlets and channels that can replicate whatever the restricted outlets are running, according to Thomas Kent, a professor of international affairs at Columbia University. Rather than bans, the EU could instead work to “make clear” to its citizens which outlets may spread Kremlin-approved misinformation, Kent wrote for The Hill. He highlighted French President Emmanuel Macron’s “naming and shaming” strategy to single out Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik as a potential model.

Evan Gershkovich’s trial echoes Stalin-era threats to journalists

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The Conversation

The espionage trial of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich begins on Wednesday, marking a new, dangerous era for foreign media in Russia that bears hallmarks of life under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Then, skeptical Western journalists were persecuted and often prosecuted for spying, according to two UK academics writing in The Conversation. And while Gershkovich’s arrest could be a Kremlin ploy to broker a favorable hostage exchange with Washington, his detention signals to all the foreign correspondents still in Russia that “a foreign passport — even from the most powerful nation on earth — is no longer protection.”

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