Even in Putin's propaganda war, one must side with the victims.
The truth is always the first casualty of war. In Russia, two of the last media still reporting objectively on Russia's war of aggression have now been blocked: The radio station Ekho Moskvy (Moscow Echo), which is critical of the Kremlin and one of Russia's oldest, and the younger TV station "Doshd" (Rain), were shut because they had spread "deliberately false information"-according to the General prosecutor. Previously, Russian authorities had prescribed media not to use terms such as "war" or "attack" under any circumstances. The Russian government calls its war of aggression on Ukraine, a sovereign neighbouring state, in violation of international law, a "special military operation".
Now, too, propaganda and agitation predominate - admittedly for the most part on the side of the Russian aggressor. The missile attack on the TV station in Kiev was also aimed at spreading uncensored news to Ukrainians. On Sunday, the EU banned the Russian TV channel RT (formerly Russia Today) and the "Sputnik" agency in all EU countries. This is to stop their "toxic and harmful disinformation", explained EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The "Association of European Journalists"(AEJ) has campaigned for a ban, although we otherwise support the preservation of media freedom. But should a channel like RT, as an instrument of Putin's war propaganda, continue to be broadcast freely in EU countries, while critical media in Russia are silenced and journalists there are imprisoned or intimidated?
Putin has brought almost all Russian media into line and only recently had the office of "Deutsche Welle" in Moscow closed as a countermeasure for shutting down RT in Germany. RT had planned a headquarters for the German-speaking region in Vienna and had already hired the first young journalists.
Should we accept this? The Russian army would merely end the "genocide by Kiev" and leave out "civilian targets", RT reported as recently as the weekend.
In the last two years, the channel has also given a stage to anti-vaccinationists, conspiracy theorists and anti-EU parties. Austrian Ex-Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl appeared as a regular guest and praised Putin's policies.
But there can be no neutrality in the media war. „The Guild“, a cooperation of European Universities in Brussels, spoke of a "conflict" and managed to condemn Russia only after several days. More than 200 Russian academics showed more courage and spoke out against Putin's invasion in an open letter.
Russian artists like Soprano Anna Netrebko or conductor Valery Gergiev already decided which side they are on. Gergiev, nicknamed Putins beloved conductor, was fired from several orchestras and operas in Italy and Germany. Netrebko, who refused to take sides, although a few years ago she took part in charity events with the leaders of the separatist regions Donezk and Luhansk, opted for a pause from stages. She was already banned from the Met in New York.
The extent to which Russian media manipulate their own population could be seen on TV Russia 2 last week. There, a corpulent presenter openly threatened to use nuclear weapons, saying that a world without a proper place for Russia was no longer worth living in anyway. Good night and good luck!
The author is a journalist and Honorary President of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ).