The EU Parliament has approved a resolution to counter ‘propaganda’ by Russian media.
On Wednesday, MEPs in Strasbourg voted on a non-legislative resolution which calls for the EU to “respond to information warfare” by Russia as well as ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other violent jihadi terrorist groups.
The Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik news agencies are alleged to be among the most dangerous “tools of Russian propaganda.”
The Sputnik press service said the move was a direct violation of media freedom and human rights and warned the bloc against allowing state censorship.
The EU Parliament’s resolution demonstrates “political degradation” in regard to the “idea of democracy” in the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday, commenting on the vote.
Putin pointed out that while “everyone tries to lecture” Russia on democracy, European lawmakers themselves resort to a policy of restrictions, “which is not the best way” to deal with any issues.
Adding that he hopes the Western move to “counter Russian propaganda” won’t lead to serious restrictions, the president congratulated RT and Sputnik journalists on their work.
In the Wednesday vote, 304 MEPs supported the resolution based on the report ‘EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties’, with 179 voting against it and 208 abstaining.
Written by a Polish member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, Anna Fotyga, the report alleged that Moscow aims to “incite fear and divide Europe,” and called for the establishment of measures to tackle the perceived Russian propaganda threat.
The report suggests that Moscow provides financial support to opposition parties and organizations in EU member states, causing disintegration within the bloc.
At the same time, Russia is accused of “information warfare,” with such entities as RT TV channel, Sputnik news agency, Rossotrudnichestvo federal agency and the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) fund alleged to be among its most threatening propaganda “tools.”
The document also places Russian media organizations alongside terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Sputnik has already appealed to the UN, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and a number of international journalists’ organizations and NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders, to take measures to stop what it considers to be interference into freedom of speech in the EU.
“The resolution hits straight at a number of respected media, including Sputnik agency, and has an aim to stop their activity in the EU. Moreover, the resolution bluntly contradicts the EU’s own human rights and freedom of press norms,” reads the letter signed by Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.
Before the Wednesday vote, the document had been criticized by some MEPs, who called it both “insane” and “ridiculous.” The EU “desperately needs an enemy, be it Russia or any other,” that it can blame for any of its own failures, French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhaueser told RT. Spanish MEP Javier Couso Permuy said “it fosters hysteria against Russia,” while British MEP James Carver noted the report is “worryingly reminiscent of the Cold War.”
Moscow earlier said it would be forced to take reciprocal steps to the EU lawmakers’ “unfriendly actions.” Having called the MEPs’ move “cynical,” the Russian Federation Council member on international affairs, Igor Morozov, said that European lawmakers “should be aware that their unfriendly actions” would cause a “very tough response” from Moscow.