The public media watchdog has banned the Russian TV RTR Planeta, on charges of disinformation and hatred incitement against Ukraine. A measure that raises many questions. Meanwhile, it reinforces the Vilnius-Kiev axis.
Russian TVs intend information in a, say, questionable way. This is a fact. But how to fight misinformation? Banning media is certainly not the best method, because it is the same adopted, for example, by the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea. But Lithuania did it, shutting down for six months the Russian RTR Planeta TV , a broadcaster registered in Sweden but with contents entirely produced in Russia and in Russian language. To be added, a TV that talks to 200,000 Russians living in Lithuania, 6.6% of the population (12% in the capital). Wouldn’t have been better to let them decide whether to change the channel?
The decisive Rtr fault was to broadcast a show featuring Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the deputy chairman of the Duma and, euphemistically, exaggerated politician. “Can’t our commanders shred foreign uniforms with Russian sabres?,” said Zhirinovsky during the Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyov. “The only way to get them down at the negotiations table is to point a gun at their heads – sit down and sign the treaty” And again, “We must threaten Brussels, Warsaw, Vilnius, so they start digging trenches.” All in all, considering his exploits, nothing sensational.
Well, every time I think about Zhirinovsky, another politician comes to my mind, the former Italian minister Roberto Calderoli. A man able to call a black woman (and fellow minister) an orangutan and walk with a pig on leash in a place where Italian Muslims planned to build a mosque. Well, what would be left on air in Italy if all TVs hosting Calderoli where shut down?
According Mantas Martišius, member of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission, such statements amount to plain intimidation. “First, they seek to threaten those who watch the programme. In the end, they say: listen, there will be another war where Russia will be forced to strike preventive attacks against the West.” Is it enough to talk about paranoia?
Fortunately, some voices within the same Lithuanian civil society raised against the risk of limiting the freedom of expression. “Probably, as a rule, we should not fight Russian propaganda with Russian-type of restrictive means,” said the historian and political scientist Šarūnas Liekis.
The decision of the Lithuanian watchdog raises important questions. Who decides what is propaganda? What will the next media outlet to be shut down? Its goal is not very clear indeed. Whether it is designed to protect the integrity of the information, the Russian community in Lithuania, or is just a move of retaliation against Russia. In the latter case, the role played by the Strategic Communications Department of the Lithuanian army (called to give advice to the Commission about the ban) may not be a coincidence.
Lithuania has proven so far to be the harsher supporter of Ukraine against Russia, demonstrating an ease that little befits to a (albeit young) democracy and EU member. Like when its president, Dalia Grybauskaite, has called Russia a “terrorist state “.
If Europe wants to lecture other countries in democracy, it should have better start by its youngest and spirited members.
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