Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 7, 2019.
We have taken note of an interview with French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux for Le Parisien, in which he again attacked RT and Sputnik. In addition to traditional allegations of Russian media interference in other countries’ elections and other domestic political events and accusations of publishing fake news, we have noticed some absolutely unacceptable things. First, if you are fighting fake news – and we know that France is in the first ranks of this campaign – you should provide at least one solid fact proving that RT, Sputnik or any other Russian media outlet provided distorted coverage or published unreliable information, or that they neglected to publish a refutation when the information they had published was proved incorrect. Do you have such facts? Or will we continue to listen to the twice-told tales by French officials?
When asked if they should fear foreign interference in European elections, the representative of the French Government as good as compared RT and Sputnik to fasciosphere and patriosphere movements. He said: “Everything depends on what you describe as interference. What we saw during the 2017 presidential campaign was [attempted] influence of social media from the patriosphere and fasciosphere. Both movements have very close ties to Sputnik and RT, which are financed by the Kremlin and emerged largely thanks to fasciosphere.”
I would like to remind you that we have been waiting for over a month for a French response to our diplomatic note in which we asked our French colleagues to confirm or refute what President Emmanuel Macron has said in an interview with Le Point, in which he described RT and Sputnik as pro-Kremlin media outlets and compared them to radical political movements, including far right ones. Similar statements made by a government official may show that the French President hardly misspoke during the interview with Le Point. This looks like an institutional campaign against Russian media outlets in France. It is impossible to fight fakes and misinformation with one hand and harass media outlets with the other hand. This just doesn’t happen.
Worse still, French officials do not limit themselves to allegations. We have learned that the French media regulator CSA has requested that cooperation between the Paris-based radio station Aligre FM and Sputnik France be terminated. The CSA has called for accelerating the process, which was planned to be concluded in late 2019. It is an example of hands-on control of the media implemented by an allegedly independent organisation on orders from the French establishment. If not for these interviews and statements, or reports on meetings held behind closed doors, we could think that independent media outlets really want to cut short their cooperation with their Russian partners. We do not think so now. It is a political put-up job.
We see yet again that the French authorities are doing their utmost to restrict the operations of the Russian media outlets by putting direct pressure on their French partners and by creating a situation in which Russian media are viewed as toxic and not to be trusted.
We would like to see comments on these developments by the concerned international organisations and human rights NGOs. We will forward the material at our disposal to the OSCE. We want to see a conclusion on the acceptability of direct pressure put on an independent Paris-based radio station to accelerate the termination of its partner ties with a Russian media outlet and whether these actions comply with the principles of freedom of the media and respect for independent media outlets.
I would like to say again that we take note of such discriminating acts and forward information about them to the concerned international organisations. As we said before, we would not like to take response measures against the French media outlets which continue to conduct their professional activities in Russia without the slightest restrictions, even though they sometimes publish absurd material that contains fake data or misinformation. We have always tried to avoid using administrative leverage or bans; instead, we preferred giving public answers, publishing refutations, sending notes and publishing articles and interviews. We wonder why they don’t act likewise in France. Are they afraid of something?
I liked an item on Euronews according to which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday urged the French government to conduct a “full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force” by French police during the Yellow Vest protests. Commissioner Michelle Bachelet added that the Yellow Vests “have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs.”
French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in response that any conclusion on possible [police] abuses and any decision on changing the mechanism can only be taken when the investigation is over.
I wonder why a full investigation is necessary before a decision is made in one case, and why no investigation is conducted and no results or any other material is required in cases such as those of RT and Sputnik?