Who benefits from the panic around the new type of Corona virus? The situation is under control, and there is now cause for worrying. In the early 2000s, around 100 billion USD was spent to “contain the spread” of the SARS-Co virus. In 18 years, around 700 people have died from it – just as many who dies from a usual influenza. In this case, the big pharmaceutical companies could profit largely. Why this panic? The answer is the classical: “who benefits from it?”
Russian journalists are being repressed in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Germany, France and the UK. We are talking about systematic deprivation of accreditation, immediate threats, including criminal prosecution, exclusion from the events. Only because these people decided to choose the Sputnik.
Sputnik was created by a Presidential decree with the aim to “report on the state policy of Russia abroad”. Numerous reports have described how top managers from all the large government-controlled outlets and some influential private media attend the weekly meetings where "media managers receive guidelines that 'help' them not to overstep the Kremlin’s so-called 'double white lines'." In all of the mentioned countries Sputnik and RT are being accused of spreading disinformation, violating copyrights, acting as a propaganda instrument. Here are some examples.
In Estonia, Sputnik is represented as a victim of unprecedented persecution. This kind of statements were debunked several times. Read here. The steps taken by Estonia are based on the Article 2 of the Council Regulation (EU) No 269/2014 on the territorial integrity of Ukraine that foresees freezing the assets of Dmitry Kiselyov, the Director-General of Rossija Segodnya.
Lithuania is claimed to follow totalitarian laws, while Sputnik fights against intolerance. This came as in mid-2019 a court in Vilnius ruled on blocking Sputnik Lithuania over copyright issues. Broadcasting service (LRT) approached the Radio and Telecommunications Committee and pointed out in a statement that Sputnik had illegally used LRT materials at least 1464 times in violation of copyrights. Lithuanian Sputnik had continued to distribute illegal material and had not reacted to repeated requests by the National Broadcasting service to stop the abuse of copyright infringement.
In Latvia, in 2016, Latvia's domain registry shut the website of Sputnik Latvia after receiving a letter of concern from the Latvian Foreign Ministry, which drew attention to Sputnik's coverage of Ukraine and routine denial of the embattled nation's territorial integrity. In July 2019, Latvian authorities blocked access to the online portal baltnews.lv, owned by Rossiya Segodnya.
In the UK, in 2019, Russia's RT and Sputnik news agencies have been banned from attending a conference on media freedom in London for playing an "active role in spreading disinformation". In July of the same year, RT received a fine of 20,000 British pounds from the British regulator OFCOM "for serious failures to comply with our broadcasting rules".
Talking about France, Sputnik insisted that French society needs high-quality journalism, that they deliver, that is why they are being harassed. In reality, the French broadcasting regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), issued a warning to RT over a falsified report contesting the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. Read about the situation with Sputnik and RT in France here.
In Germany, it is claimed that there's a long-standing campaign to discredit Russian media. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert reacted to these accusations: "Anyone who makes such absurd allegations in the world has little knowledge of Germany and little idea of freedom of the press," said government spokesman Seibert. German authorities emphasized, that the Russian government is expanding its media offerings in Germany in order to increase its influence. State enterprises are disguised as independent media to hide the fact that they belong to the Russian state. The most important of these are the Internet channel RT Deutsch and the Sputnik news agency.
Europe has been working to expose Kremlin-backed propaganda campaigns for years. EU countries develope new legislative norms to counter disinformation flow. As European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová said: "We are not seeking one magical instrument that will solve the problem," adding that the EU was looking to come up with cross-sector strategies to counter disinformation campaigns.
The EU vs Disinfo team has found 49 different Sputnik websites from all over the world and 31 of them are in the Disinformation cases database, meaning those outlets have been reported publishing disinformation.