‘We’re polite people’: Lavrov says no punishing French press despite Macron’s crackdown on RT France
Earlier on Tuesday, Lavrov’s joint press-conference with French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian was delayed for half an hour, due to the exclusion of accredited Russian journalists from Channel One, Sputnik and RT by the French Foreign Ministry.
“The situation changed only when Lavrov warned that he won’t take part in the press-conference if the Russian press isn’t allowed at it,” a source in the Russian delegation told RIA Novosti.
After talks with Le Drian, the Russian FM visited RT’s headquarters in the French capital. He checked out the state-of-the-art studios and workspaces, and had a brief chat with the staff.
Lavrov was surprised to learn that RT France was barred not only from the Elysee Place, but from the Foreign Ministry and other French government agencies as well. The crackdown on the Russian broadcaster began after President Emmanuel Macron came to power in May 2017.
He said that the persecution of RT, as well the Sputnik news agency in France was among the topics he'd discussed with the French foreign minister.
“I gave a firm promise to Le Drian when he again said that RT isn’t a media outlet but a propaganda tool, that we aren’t going to retaliate against the French journalists who are accredited in Moscow,” Lavrov told the head of RT France, Xenia Fedorova, and Sputnik France editor-in-chief, Natalia Novikova.
“We’re the polite people, right?” he added, laughing.
The top Russian diplomat said that he also asked Le Drian about the so-called “Anti-Fake News Law,” which was adopted in France this summer, but that the French FM “didn’t comment on it.”
The law allows the French authorities to shut down any media outlet that they believe to be under foreign influence, four months before any election and under the pretext that it could influence the outcome of the vote.
The new legislation “is a part of the initiatives, coming from Paris, aimed at ‘white-listing’ certain media and leaving others not as easily available” to the public,” Lavrov said.
RT France’s Fedorova also blasted the legislation, which can be easily applied against RT, as “a sort of censorship.”
“We’re fighting this” through journalist unions and lawyers, she said. “Despite the pressure from the state and the way our work is covered by the mainstream media, we receive a very positive feedback from our viewers. Our audience is growing both on air and online.”Also on rt.com ‘Ridiculous & absurd political censorship’: Opposition critics slam Macron’s anti-fake news law
“Without RT, the French won’t get the full picture of what’s happening on the international arena,” Fedorova added.
RT France and Sputnik were invited to cover the World War I centenary commemorations, which took place in Paris on November 11 and saw Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, participating. Shortly after that, the media cited an unnamed adviser to the French president, who said that Macron was now positive about issuing accreditations to RT France and Sputnik.
However, Fedorova said that the claims weren’t officially confirmed and neither RT nor Sputnik have since been allowed to any briefings or other French official events. Their admission to Tuesday’s press-conference at the Foreign Ministry only became possible due to the active mediation of the Russian Embassy and at the insistence of Lavrov.
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