France freezes bank accounts of Russian foreign broadcaster RT France
The bank accounts of RT France, the French branch of Russia's state broadcaster RT that are suspended in the European Union, have been frozen, authorities said Friday.
The French Ministry of Economy and Finance said the broadcaster's assets had been frozen because of the application of recent EU sanctions and not at the initiative of the French state, according to the BFMTV news channel.
The news outlet quoted an unnamed source from the ministry who said the measure was borne out of the EU's "latest sanctions package" in December.
The EU’s ninth sanctions package in Dec. also provides an "asset freeze" on Russian media entities in Europe.
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Russian media outlet ANO TV Novosti "is the parent company of RT France, which by implication explains the freezing of RT France's assets," according to the source.
Xeniya Fedorova, editor-in-chief of RT France, criticized the measure on RT France's Telegram channel.
"Although RT France is not on the sanctions list and has the right to operate in France, such a decision practically paralyzes our activities," said Fedorova.
RT's international editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonjan, also denounced the sanctions. "Our RT France has had all its accounts in France terminated. Here is liberté, égalité and fraternité," she said.
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Russian foreign media Sputnik and RT have been repeatedly accused of being instruments of "Kremlin disinformation."
Following a EU decision after Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, RT was not allowed to be broadcast on television or the internet in the EU as of March 2, 2022.
The European Court of Justice, which heard an appeal by RT France, upheld the decision in July.
The original sanctions package only banned the broadcast of RT content in the EU, not its production itself.
To date, RT France has continued to produce and distribute content that can be accessed despite the ban via a virtual private network (VPN), a service that allows users to surf the internet while bypassing the block.
In an interview with the France 24 news channel in December, the secretary general of the European Federation of Journalists, Ricardo Gutierrez, criticized the EU for censoring Russian media.
Banning Russian media in the EU, including RT and Sputnik, has set "a dangerous precedent that poses a threat to press freedom," said Gutierrez.