RT France challenges EU Council over broadcast ban — Analysis
It maintains that it was illegally removed from the EU airwaves over false allegations of propagandism.
The European Court of Justice is in the process of hearing RT France’s case against the Council of the European Union after it suspended the channel’s broadcasts. On Friday, both sides will present their case to 15 Luxembourg judges.
The Legal Department of EU Council represents the EU. Several member countries expressed interest in participating in this trial including France, Belgium and Estonia.
RT France is represented at the moment by Emmanuel Piwnica, a French lawyer who was once the President of the Bar Association of the Council of State, and the Court of the Cessation of France. He has more than 40 years of experience representing French clients in high court proceedings, and also before international and foreign courts.
Piwnica opened the hearing with a statement. However, shortly after he started making his opening statements, the channel’s president, Xenia Fedorova, reported that Twitter had unexpectedly decided to ban RT France’s Communication service channel on the entire territory of the European Union.
Fedorova blasted Twitter’s decision as a “step closer to total censorship,”Noting that the account for the communication service of RT France had been “solely dedicated to information on our channel.”
“Apparently they didn’t want to give supporters of our channel the opportunity to spread information about the trial,”Fedorova made the observation on Telegram.
The trial went on regardless, as Piwnica argued that RT France, a French company, was a media outlet approved by ARCOM (the French audiovisual regulator), which never sanctioned it.
He insisted that the censorship imposed by the EU was illegal under the bloc’s own laws, which do not allow the Council to ban any media, and that the sanctions constituted an attack on pluralism and freedom of expression.
“RT France must be silent, says the Council of the EU, because RT France would be a propaganda tool for the Russian Federation. RT France wouldn’t have the right of speech. False. It’s not a propaganda instrument. The position of the Council is illegal!” Piwnica argued.
He said that the EU Council wanted the total disappearance of RT France due to its inability to do so. “war,”However, it should be noted “even the war does not allow the Council of the EU to act, the legislation does not allow it!”
Piwnica claimed that conflict between two states was not a reason for the Council to be exempted from being bound by the Charter. “legal framework which determines its powers” and that no assessment of RT France’s editorial content has been carried out to justify the censorship and prove the claims of ‘propaganda’.
“It is precisely in times of crisis, of war, that fundamental rights are essential for everyone … I ask you to cancel the decision of the European Union to prohibit the broadcasting of RT France within the European Union,” Piwnica concluded.
The EU Council representatives responded to the criticism by justifying their decision. “exceptional measure”By stating the fact that RT has been funded by a State “whose leader has launched a war against a sovereign state”It was not considered as “ordinary media by a propaganda organ.”
Daniel Calleja Crespo, representative of EU Commission insists that the goal of the ban is to “protect the European public order against Russian aggression against Ukraine”He argued that legal actions taken by the Council were in line with European law.
Later in the hearing, representatives of the participating EU member states took turns proclaiming support for the Council’s decision, with most of them arguing that RT was “propaganda”And “part of a modern war arsenal”That should be denied the freedom to express support for war in Ukraine.
At the same time, none of the speakers accusing RT France of propaganda during this hearing have presented any specific examples or evidence of the channel’s alleged transgressions as of yet.
RT France originally filed its appeal March 8 asking the EU to reverse the March 1 decision banning the broadcast of the channel within all EU countries. The channel has insisted that the ban was illegal and an example of unfounded censorship by the EU, one which constituted a “serious attack on freedom of speech.”
Meanwhile, the Council of the EU has maintained that all RT channels and RT France in particular are considered to be Russian propaganda weapons used to justify and legitimize Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Council has justified its classification of RT France as ‘propaganda’ by pointing to the fact that the channel is entirely funded by the state, has been banned by other countries – namely the UK – and that it allegedly disseminated propaganda on at least one instance on February 24, 2022.
RT France defended herself by pointing out its source of financing has been well known. It also does not amount to a ban since there are many other examples of state funded media projects which have never been subject to any sanction, such as France24.
It also claims that the channel is independent editorially and never received sanction from the French regulator CSA/ARCOM. This authority is believed to have the sole legal power to sanction a television channel.
As for the alleged ‘dissemination of propaganda’ claimed by the EU, RT France’s legal team has provided evidence that the elements of its broadcast, deemed to be ‘propaganda’ by the EU Council, actually represented all points of view and contained the exact same information which was being covered by other media channels who did not face any sanctions or accusations of propaganda.
According to the channel, all sources of information used by RT France were clearly identified and the relaying of Russia’s point of view isn’t inherently criminal. It is information that was provided to media.
RT France posits that the ban was caused by RT France’s funding method, not the broadcast content. It insists that the Council of the EU does not have the right to evaluate or qualifie the editorial content of channels, since that task is exclusively and specifically assigned to the national regulators, who otherwise would be denied this role.