June 29, 2018 / 5:07 PM / 5 months ago

Russia warns it could strip France 24, Deutsche Welle of licence - agencies

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday it might strip the France 24 TV channel and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle of their Russian operating licenses amid deteriorating relations between the West and Moscow.

FILE PHOTO: Vehicles of Russian state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today (RT) in Moscow's Red Square, March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

Russia’s communications watchdog said it may act against the French media outlet a day after French authorities accused Russian broadcaster RT of airing distortions about the conflict in Syria, Russian news agencies reported.

Moscow has previously used laws regulating media ownership to threaten foreign outlets with expulsion in a tit-for-tat response to measures taken by foreign governments against RT.

On Thursday, the French media regulator (CSA) issued a warning to RT’s French office, accusing it of misrepresenting facts in a news bulletin about events in Syria.

RT’s programme had questioned whether chemical attacks in the eastern region of Ghouta had really occurred and accused a local group of fabricating the attack and its effects on the local population.

Russian news agency RIA quoted a Russian broadcasting industry source as saying: “During an analysis of the licensing agreements in (watchdog) Roskomnadzor’s possession, it has been established that the editorial activity of (France 24) is under the control of a foreign legal entity.”

This would violate a Russian media law introduced in 2015 which restricts foreign ownership of media companies in Russia to 20 percent or less.

According to Interfax news agency, Roskomnadzor could ask a court to strip Media Communications, a Russian entity, of its license to broadcast France 24 in Russia.

RT chief Margarita Simonyan told RIA, “Unlike others, Russia can afford such a luxury as reciprocal measures.”

France’s CSA imposed no sanctions on RT over the Syria report, but the regulator has the authority to fine a broadcaster or suspend its licence.

In statement, RT France acknowledged a mistake in the French translation of comments from a Syrian witness but said this was a purely technical error which had been corrected.

A committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament said on Friday it would ask “the regulatory authorities” to examine how Germany’s Deutsche Welle is complying with Russian legislation, according to RIA.

The agency cited committee Igor Morozov member as saying that Russia may strip Deutsche Welle off its licence if it violates the law, following the statement made by the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

She said on Thursday that Deutsche Welle had published “insulting” articles on the social media, RIA said.

Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Polina Ivanova and Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Toby Chopra

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