A senior Dutch official warned that the EU ban on Kremlin-linked news outlets RT and Sputnik must be accompanied by safeguards – echoing some rumors about whether the extraordinary measure could set a stifling precedent.
In an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday, Dutch Digital Minister Alexandra van Huffelen said that while she fully supports a crackdown on Russian state propaganda, the EU ban should be temporary and subject to regular review.
“We should try to keep it as short as possible and as long as necessary,” said van Huffelen. “It should be the one very, very exception because we are in a state of war.”
Days after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced plans to block RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and Sputnik, EU countries on Tuesday approved sanctions doing just that. The texts of the law were published shortly thereafter, effectively providing national regulators with the basis to take both Russian state organizations inside the bloc offline and offline.
The EU took the highly unusual step of shutting down both channels – described in the West as tools of Moscow’s propaganda machine – amid a massive information war unfolding over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where civilian casualties are mounting.
While the 27 EU governments unanimously backed the measure, three EU diplomats said the initiative has raised some concerns from a handful of countries, including the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.
“Some member states have expressed concerns about media freedom or possible countermeasures against EU journalists working in Russia,” said one of the diplomats. “But in the end nobody wanted to defend a Russian propaganda tool.”
Politicians, legal and media experts as well journalist associationshave similarly raised questions about the legal and political implications of the unprecedented ban.
Van Huffelen said it was important to review the sanctions “in the coming days and weeks”.
The legal text of the sanctions states that the Russian broadcaster’s ban “should be maintained until the end of the aggression against Ukraine and until the Russian Federation and its associated media cease their propaganda actions against the Union and its member states.”
The Dutch politician warned that the Russian state’s disinformation campaigns would continue despite the measures.
“We know there are all kinds of platforms, Russian bots and whatnot, trying to mislead and misinform people,” she said. “So that probably won’t just stick with what we’re doing right now. We’ll have to review that too and see how that develops.”
On Sunday, Facebook announced It had removed organized disinformation campaigns by Russian state actors and hackers using fake accounts.
Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland last week called on online platforms to ban RT, Sputnik and other outlets like Rossija and Rossija 24. They also urged social media companies to adjust their algorithms to encourage trustworthy messaging.
Looking ahead, van Huffelen said it was “urgent” to finalize the EU’s revised charter on disinformation. The voluntary pledge – which could become binding when the EU’s law on content, the Digital Services Act, comes into effect – would oblige social media giants like TikTok, Facebook and Google to make changes, including changing their algorithms, to remove online untruths and offer more data to both users and external researchers and limit ad micro-targeting.
The European Commission, social media and messaging services, advertising lobbies, NGOs and fact-checkers are currently negotiating a new version of the code, which is expected by the end of March.
Laura Kayali contributed to the coverage.
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https://www.politico.eu/article/dutch-minister-wants-limits-on-rt-sputnik-ban-to-prevent-precedent/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Dutch minister wants restrictions on RT, Sputnik ban to avoid setting a precedent - POLITICO