Top EU diplomat says ban on Russian media protects “freedom of expression”

According to Borrell, Moscow is manipulating information and using the press as a weapon, which is why the ban is necessary.

Lucas Leiroz, researcher in Social Sciences at the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant. 

It seems increasingly clear that the EU’s main commitment is not to defend its own liberal values, such as democracy and freedom, but to attack Russia by all possible means. On February 7, Josep Borrel, the head of European diplomacy, made it clear that he supports a ban on Russian media and that he sees the measure as a way of defending freedom of expression. With this, he makes it clear that for the European bloc, Russia is an enemy and the opinions of journalists from Moscow must be censored.

Borrell’s words were presented during a press conference dedicated to the topic of European responses to “Russian disinformation”. Despite heading EU’s foreign affairs, Borrell has been characterized by extremely problematicand anti-diplomatic postures in his anti-Russian militancy. This time he claimed that censoring Russians would be defending freedom of expression rather than attacking it.

“In doing that, we are not attacking the freedom of expression, we are just protecting the freedom of expression (…) [We see] manipulation and interference as a crucial [Russian] instrument (…) We need to understand how these disinformation campaigns are organized (…) to identify the actors of the manipulation”, he said.

The official advocated maximizing anti-Russian sanctions as a way to prevent Russian and pro-Russian press agencies from operating within the EU. In fact, this type of policy has already been adopted through measures such as the blocking of bank accounts of Russian newspapers in Europe, preventing the press from functioning, as has happened with Russia Today in France recently. Without money, agencies cannot maintain their activities and so the Russian media is suffocated through direct economic blackmail. Apparently, in Borrell’s opinion, this is absolutely legal and recommendable.

However, not only did Borrell openly advocate anti-Russian censorship, but he also made it clear that the EU works for the growth of the dissident press within the Russian Federation. Borrell said that Europe cooperates with anti-Russian media outlets “in practical terms”, but declined to give details on the matter, making the case even more suspicious.

“What I’m saying is not just rhetoric. I cannot go into detail, but believe me, we try to support them in practical terms”, he said, adding that he could not comment on this in order not to do these media agencies “a bad favor”. Indeed, it sounds like a suggestion that EU operates illegal activities in the interior of Russia.

Despite maintaining broad freedom of expression and allowing media activities by the political opposition, the Russian government has established a limit between what is free speech and what is foreign subversive activity. Being a country under attack by NATO’s Ukrainian proxy and dealing daily with attempts of sabotage and terrorism, Moscow has made an effort to fight speeches that directly attack national security, even if it does so with balancewith the protection of freedom of expression.

In fact, by suggesting that he is helping anti-Russian groups inside Russia through secret schemes, Borrell is taking another step towards the absolute collapse of relations between Russia and Europe. The bloc’s foreign affairs chief seems to be simply admitting that he backscriminal activities within Russia, which certainly will not be accepted by Moscow, thus aggravating the hostility between the sides.

Commenting on Borrell’s impolite and irresponsiblewords, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that the attitudes of the EU against the Russian press are dictatorial, severely condemning Borrell’s position. She also compared the EU to the German Nazi regime, recalling how political maneuvers were used in the past to ban press freedom and persecutepolitical opponents. According to her, the Russian people would again be fighting against this Nazi “misanthropic logic”.

“To justify the bans, the Nazis set fire to the Reichstag (government building), which allowed them to begin repressions against political opponents (…) Then they started burning books by objectionable authors. After that, an order was passed that every journalist of the Reich had to join the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) in order to continue a professional activity. Then all authorities were obliged to subscribe to the Nazi press (…) History is cyclical — today our people are again struggling with this misanthropic logic”, she said.

Undoubtedly, the European desire to ban Russian media shows that there is a fear of the truth. Only by censoring authentic journalists and reliable data it is possible to keep alive the Western disinformation machine, which continues to spread unsubstantiated narratives such as “Ukrainian victory” and “Russian government’s unpopularity”. Without listening to the other side, the European people are induced to believe in Western big media outlets, thus not having any room for debate or freedom of speech in Europe.

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