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Luxembourg blocks broadcast license for RT's German channel

August 14, 2021

The Kremlin-funded network wanted to broadcast from Luxembourg via satellite and sidestep German broadcasting rules. Moscow claims Germany is trampling press freedom.

The RT logo at its studio in Moscow
Western officials accuse RT of amplifying Russian propagandaImage: Getty Images/K. Kudryavtsev

Luxembourg has banned Russia's state-owned news network RT from broadcasting its German-language channel from the tiny EU country.

Regulators in Luxembourg on Friday rejected a license request from the 24-hour network, formerly known as Russia Today, to broadcast its RT auf Deutsch service via satellite.

RT made the move because Germany does not grant broadcasting licenses to foreign-owned state media. The spat has angered Moscow, which accuses Berlin of trampling over press freedom.

Under EU law, media outlets from non-member countries can fall under the jurisdiction of a country within the bloc if they use its satellite capacity.

A Luxembourg government source said that "technical criteria are not met" for RT to operate there. 

The source said that because RT already has an office and staff in Berlin its operating requirements are "deemed to be under the jurisdiction of the Federal Republic of Germany."

The network's English language channel is already available in Luxembourg. 

RT under fire from intelligence officials

The Munich-based daily Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that RT's bid had attracted the attention of Luxembourg's intelligence services, who met with diplomats and regulators to discuss the application.

In a statement, RT said its lawyers would review the decision.

RT, which was set up in 2005, is noticeably free of any criticism of the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.

Ruslan Boshirov (L) and Alexander Petrov, who were suspected by the British authorities of poisoning former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
RT was fined over their coverage of the Skripal poisoning, which western officials put on two men identified as Ruslan Boshirov (L) and Alexander Petrov (R)Image: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS/RT

Last year, a US State Department report cited the network in a study of what it called the Kremlin's "pillars of disinformation."  

The network, funded entirely by Russian taxpayers, launched its German service as a website in 2014. It already broadcasts worldwide in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

German intelligence officials criticized the channel for its "very selective and subtle manipulation" in its reporting on coronavirus and anti-lockdown protests last year.

Last year, RT lost a court battle against UK regulator Ofcom after it hit the network with a fine of 200,000 pounds ($277,300, €235,000) over repeated impartiality breaches under the country's broadcasting code.

The fines were handed down over the channel's coverage of the poisoning of ex-KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, southern England.

jf/dj (AP, dpa)