The blocking of RT and Sputnik sets a serious precedent (of dubious legality) against freedom of expression

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Russia blocking media and social networks is censorship, but Europe also has a problem with freedom of expression. The decision of the European Union to block the Sputnik and Russia Today (RT) media for their “harmful disinformation” has brought to the table the debate on the extent to which freedom of expression is being limited.

A debate that is not only political, since some experts point out that this prohibition is not legal, since it corresponds to the different countries and not to the European Union this decision to block the media.

From Twitter to Telegram, all the major platforms comply with the blockade. Watching Sputnik or RT it was easy to realize that most of the news was focused from a point of view similar to that defended by the government of Vladimir Putin. In an attempt to prevent “the Kremlin’s media machinery from spreading its lies”, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced this measure, which days later entered into force when published in the official gazette of the European Union.

Since then, platforms such as Twitter, YouTube or Facebook have blocked Russia Today accounts. As well operators have done. And even Telegram, a messaging application of Russian origin that maintains a fairly low intervention policy, has decided to block these media.

“The rules are clear. There can be no circumvention. All actors must assume their responsibilities. First, because it is the law in the EU. Second, everyone has understood what is at stake,” assures Věra Jourovávice president of values ​​and transparency of the European Commission.

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Blocking Russian propaganda is an “exceptional” measure. “We will try to keep it as little as possible but as long as necessary. It should be a one-time exception, but there is a war,” defends Dutch Minister Alexandra van Huffelen. This exceptionality has been made clear by the position of several politicians from different countries, who expressed their concern about freedom of expression and possible countermeasures against European Union journalists in Russia, which have ended up taking place. However, “in the end no one wanted to defend a Russian propaganda tool” and the blockade ended up being approved.

“An act of counterproductive censorship” for which they have no powers. For the first time in modern history, Western European governments are banning the media. alerted from the European Federation of Journalists. “It should be remembered that the regulation of the media is not the competence of the European Union. We believe that the EU does not have the right to grant or withdraw transmission licences. This is an exclusive competence of the states.”

“This act of censorship can have a totally counterproductive effect on citizens who follow the banned media. In our opinion, it is always better to counter disinformation by denouncing their factual errors or bad journalism, demonstrating their lack of financial or operational independence, highlighting their loyalty to government interests and their contempt for the public interest,” explains Ricardo Gutiérrez, of the European organization of journalists.

A vague prohibition of dubious legality. the jurist Joan Cheapinternational expert on freedom of expression and member of the Platform for Freedom of Information (PLI), Explain that these decisions “must be made by the regulator of the country of origin” and that “they cannot be based on a general evaluation of the contents, but on specific infractions”. In other words, in addition to having to be France, Spain or Germany who establish the blockade, the content should also be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and not a general blockade of the entire medium.

According to the expert: “restrictions on freedom of expression must be based on the principles of legality, legitimacy and proportionality. None of them are adequately justified in this vague prohibition by the European Commission.” The case of RT is particularly complex because “the very structure and operation of RT makes it an exceptional and highly sophisticated instrument for manipulating public opinion,” says Barata.

The European Union does allow RT and Sputnik to conduct research and interviews. The application of the blockade is delicate, because fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and information or the right to freedom of enterprise are affected. The European Commission recognizes this in its text and for this reason it prohibits the dissemination of news but does not prevent these Russian media from conducting research or interviews.

Russia blocking media and social networks is censorship, but Europe also has a problem with freedom of expression. The decision…

Russia blocking media and social networks is censorship, but Europe also has a problem with freedom of expression. The decision…

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