DirecTV latest network to drop RT amid Russian invasion of Ukraine

European Union moved to ban Russia state media as well

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 01 March 2022 17:28 GMT
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DirecTV is the latest entity to cut ties with Russia Today, the state-owned, English-language Russian TV network, amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

"In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating this year’s contract expiration timeline and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately," the television distributor told Axios in a statement on Tuesday.

The European Union has also announced plans to blacklist the Russian TV network as well as the state-owned news agency Sputnik.

“Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday. “So we are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe.”

Major tech companies have joined in on the effort as well, with Google, TikTok, Facebook, and Microsoft limiting access to these Russian outlets.

Ofcom, the UK media regulator, said on Monday it is commencing with 15 different investigations into RT.

The media bans follow calls from Ukrainian media leaders to cut off Russian news outlets.

“It is critical that people around the world have access to reliable and truthful information about Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the course of hostilities,” the media groups wrote in an open letter on Monday. “We understand how powerful the Russian propaganda machine is and how much effort the aggressor has to make to spread fakes and cynically fool people.”

Russia has condemned these actions as “unacceptable”.

“Attention should be paid to the absolutely unacceptable behaviour of foreign, especially American, IT giants such as Google and Meta,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Gavrilov told Sputnik on Tuesday. “Hostile propaganda activities are openly conducted on their social platforms, while Russian sources of information are blocked, and massive restrictions on access to domestic media are put in place.”

Russia has claimed its people are still able to get media information from a variety of sources, government-owned and otherwise, but it has threatened to fine or block 10 independent Russia media outlets unless they delete stories about the war in Ukraine, according to Human Rights Watch. The Russian government appears to require such outlets to refer to the invasion only as a “special operation in connection with the situation in Lugansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic”, according to the organisation.

“For the past decade, Russian authorities have used a web of vague laws and flimsy pretexts to intimidate and harass independent and dissenting voices,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said on Tuesday. “Now they are bluntly imposing censorship combined with a false narrative that they demand everyone must parrot.”

The country is also set to introduce a new law that makes it a crime to spread “fake news” about Kremlin operations in Ukraine, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“These fakes demoralise society and undermine faith in the army and the security services,” Vasily Piskarev, an MP who supports Vladimir Putin, said, who has argued the Russian invasion is merely “maintaining peace” in Ukraine.

The media bans are part of a larger international effort to isolate Russia, which has included punishing sanctions, as well as cutting off Russian access to financial networks and international sporting organisations.

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