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European Union sanctions force RT France to shut down

The logo of Russia-backed international news broadcaster RT.
The logo of Russia-backed international news broadcaster RT. (Image via RT broadcast, Graphic by The Desk)

Nearly three months after an American website booted the French-language version of Russia’s RT, the network says it is shutting down the channel completely.

The closure was blamed on tougher economic sanctions imposed by the European Union that have severely restricted that channel and other localized versions of RT operating throughout the continent.

The latest round of sanctions resulted in the freezing of financial assets associated with RT France. The Russian government, which bankrolls the channel, responded by vowing to make things tougher for French reporters and news organizations who operate in Russia.

The sanctions are part of broader economic action against Russia since the country’s militant invasion of Ukraine last March. RT and its sister network, Sputnik, have been blamed for spreading misinformation and Russian propaganda about the invasion.

In October, French president Emmanuel Macron said regulators are intentionally making things difficult for Russia by targeting RT and its sister network, Sputnik.

“We’re using the informational weapon, and Russia was doing it even before by spreading propaganda on social networks, through propaganda channels that we have cut off on our soil but still continue to find channels to broadcast,” Macron said in an interview broadcast by France 2.

Until October, RT France was distributed online by Odysee, a U.S.-based video platform, making the channel available to French residents who could not access it on regular cable or satellite. A spokesperson for Odysee told The Desk it pulled the channel after receiving a note from French government officials warning of potential criminal charges if it did not comply with an order to remove RT France.

In a statement, a French official in charge of the country’s telecommunications policy said the banishment of RT and Sputnik’s French-language programming from Odysee was a critical step in France’s ongoing fight against government-backed disinformation.

“In the fight against propaganda and disinformation, we will not give in,” Jean-Noël Barrot said in a social media post on Thursday.

Nadège Abderrazak, a journalist for RT France, replied to Barrot’s statement, saying the network would not waver in its efforts to reach French viewers.

“In the fight against censorship and information, we will not give in,” Abderrazak tweeted.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).