Russia and the international community engage in an information blackout on the invasion

BBC recovers shortwave broadcasts, typical of past conflicts, to reconnect the population with the outside world

MADRID, March 4. (EUROPE PRESS) –

On February 27, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan decided to go on the offensive against what the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, described as the “information machinery of the Kremlin” by suspending the international activity of Sputnik and Russia Today within the great package of sanctions against Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, at the beginning of the extension of the military and political crisis to the field of the media.

Since then, platforms such as Facebook or Twitter have restricted access to information by the media considered to be mouthpieces of the Russian government, while Moscow, in retaliation and through its communications regulatory agency, Roskomnadzor, has announced this Friday restrictions on the dissemination of the Russian service of the British network BBC, the German media outlet Deutsche Welle and the US international public broadcaster RFE/RL, hours after approving a bill that includes fines and prison sentences for the dissemination of “false” information about the actions of the Armed Forces.

The effect of the international sanctions against Russia Today (or RT), was felt especially this Friday, when the US media service, based in New York, announced the dismissal of all its staff – more than a hundred employees – – and the indefinite suspension of its activities.

The decision of the YouTube platform to demonetize its videos and the disengagement of US operators such as DirectTV has led to this suspension that the head of T&R Productions, Misha Solodvnikov, described as “economic unforeseen”, according to the memorandum to employees collected by the ‘ Daily Mail’. Meanwhile, RT employees have used social networks to announce their resignation or to defend the freedom that RT management has granted them to criticize the Russian government, in the face of propaganda accusations made against the outlet.

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In recent days, Russia has tried to respond to the suspensions of its media with complaints against Google or YouTube for considering, according to Roskomnadzor, as involved “in the information war” that is being waged against the Kremlin. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has been accused by Russia of “violating the key principles of the free flow of information and unhindered access to it.”

“American Internet services, including YouTube video hosting, are participating in the information confrontation, deliberately restricting Russian media, including those that are official Russian information sources,” the Russian agency lamented the same day they were promulgated. international restrictions.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has confirmed that Russia has taken active measures to contain the flow of information within its borders. In addition to the aforementioned suspension of international media, “Roskomnadzor has also initiated proceedings against at least ten media outlets” of a national character, such as the broadcaster ‘Echo of Moscow’, the news website Mediazona, Dozhd TV and the investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta’, by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dimitri Muratov.

All of them, according to RSF, have been accused of “spreading false information about the bombing of Ukrainian cities and the death of civilians in Ukraine as a result of the actions of the Russian Army” and for describing what was an “invasion” or a “war” as which the Kremlin officially calls a “special operation in Ukraine”.

The criminalization of the dissemination of false news is joined by another legal pillar used by Russia, such as the well-known foreign agents law, expanded in 2019 to the media “that receive any amount of foreign financing”, to declare themselves as such.

For three years this law includes any media that receives any amount of foreign funding, whether from governments, organizations or even citizens, to accompany its news with a disclaimer indicating its condition, regularly present its economic status and submit annually to audits. Now, platforms like Twitter have adopted their own version of this “labelling” by designating Russia Today journalists as belonging to “Russian government-affiliated media.”

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Although experts such as the director of international policy at the Center for Cyber ​​Policy at Stanford University, Marietje Schaake, applauded the harshness of the sanctions against pro-Kremlin media, Russian journalist and censorship expert Andrei Soldatov warns of the appearance of information bubbles and blackouts of social debate. “Facebook”, he assures the ‘New York Times’ “is the most important place for public debate about what is happening, and I think that no one would take any blocking as a good sign”.

A RETURN TO THE PAST

Added to this blockade is the evident disconnection caused by the military operations of the Russian invasion, such as the attack launched against the Kiev television tower last Tuesday, in an attempt, according to the Ukrainian authorities, to disconnect the population from the capital of the outside world, and demoralize it in the process.

In response, media such as the BBC have begun to take measures rarely seen since the Second World War, by announcing the reopening of shortwave broadcasts, specifically through two new frequencies that will broadcast four hours of daily news in World Service English and can be “clearly received in Kiev and parts of Russia”.

“It is often said that the truth is the first casualty of war,” BBC Director General Tim Davie said in a statement. “In a conflict where disinformation and propaganda abound, there is a clear need for independent, verifiable news that people can trust,” he added.

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