*Updated with a statement from the German foreign ministry
The Russian foreign ministry announced on Thursday (3 February) that German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s correspondent office in Moscow will be closed down to retaliate against the ban of Russia Today’s broadcasting service by German authorities.
Russia revoked the broadcasting licence of Deutsche Welle (DW) and announced a broadcasting stop “via satellite and other means in the Russian Federation.”
Furthermore, the Office of the German broadcaster will be shut down in Russia and all media accreditations of their journalists revoked.
The Russian government is also working on declaring DW a “foreign spy.”
Russia will initiate “proceedings by competent bodies of the Russian Federation on the classification of “Deutsche Welle” as a foreign mass medium performing functions of a foreign agent,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
The move comes after the German-language TV programme of Russia Today (RT) was banned in Germany on Wednesday over not having the proper licences needed to broadcast on television. Instead of applying for a German licence, the Russian media opted to broadcast from Serbia, hoping to circumvent the German legal requirements.
Politicisation of the ban of RT
While German authorities emphasised that the move was not political, but merely based on legal assessments, RT already tried to turn it into a political issue, stating that the ban was based on “political reasons” alone.
Russia has made a similar case, arguing that the “pressure on RT” is “politically motivated.”
“This leaves us no choice other than to take response measures with regard to German media outlets accredited in Russia,” the foreign ministry said.
Deutsche Welle reacted by calling the announced measures a “complete overreaction” and announced that it will continue to operate in Russia until they are confronted with the measures.
“We have been made into a kind of pawn, which the media must often endure in autocracies. We formally protest against this absurd reaction by the Russian government and we will take legal action against the announced measures,” DW Director General Peter Limbour stressed.
The German foreign ministry also condemned the Russian measures, saying that they “lack any basis and represent a renewed strain on German-Russian relations.”
Regarding the ban of RT the German foreign ministry emphasised that the decision was up to an independent body and that “the German government cannot and must not exert any influence on the proceedings.”
Russia also announced it will prepare a list of German political and social persons involved in the ban of RT or “otherwise exerting pressure on the Russian broadcaster,” in the near future.
The ban of Deutsche Welle would only be the first step of countermeasures that the Russian government will take against the “unacceptable” ban of RT.
“Information on further stages of countermeasures will be published in due time.”
Russia Today and Disinformation
The move is not the first time that RT has sparked international turmoil.
In September 2021 the YouTube channel of Russia Today Germany was shut down due to repeatedly breaking YouTube’s community guidelines on disinformation, by posting COVID-19 related fake news.
While the German government was not directly involved in YouTube’s decision, the Kremlin held Germany accountable for the shutdown of RT’s YouTube channel.
Russia also accused the German government of having “stigmatised” RT correspondents for “years”, adding that Germany was trying to silence media that did not follow the official line. The ban was perceived as “unprecedented information aggression” against Russia.
During the YouTube incident, Russia already announced that countermeasures against Germany and German media would be “not only appropriate but imperative.”
While Russia didn’t follow up with concrete measures at the time, the Russian state started to put the German media under closer scrutiny and has now delivered on the promise of countermeasures that it already announced in September.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]