Deutsche Welle closes Russia bureau after ban

AFP , Friday 4 Feb 2022

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle closed its Moscow bureau on Friday after Russia shut down the media outlet's local operations to punish Germany for banning a service of a Russian state TV network.

DW s Moscow
DW s Moscow staff said goodbye the night before the office closed. DW Official website

In an unprecedented move against a foreign media on Thursday, Moscow ordered Deutsche Welle to close and revoked staff accreditations in response to Berlin's ban on the German-language channel of Russian state TV network RT.

While Moscow has presided over a historic crackdown on Russian independent media over the last year, it has until now left Western media operating in the country relatively untouched.

But Deutsche Welle's shutdown and several recent expulsions of prominent Western journalists may indicate a change in the Kremlin's stance.

"The team stopped their work early on Friday after having their credentials revoked," Deutsche Welle said on its website.

"It clearly came as a huge shock for all of us," Irina Filatova, a Deutsche Welle employee in Moscow, was quoted as saying.

She said the bureau "never expected" it would be shut down.

According to the Russian foreign ministry, Deutsche Welle's Moscow bureau has around two dozen employees, most of them Russians.

The EU said Moscow's move was "unjustified" and "regrettably illustrates yet again their continuous violation of media freedom."

The German government has said the move had "no basis of comparison whatsoever" with Berlin's ruling on RT.

Deutsche Welle's chief Peter Limbourg called the order an "absurd reaction of the Russian government."

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned that Moscow could make further moves against German media operating in the country.

"If Germany goes for escalation, we will respond the same way," she said.

The closure of the bureau came as tensions mount between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

Russia also announced it was initiating the process of designating Deutsche Welle as a "foreign agent".

Dozens of media workers and leading independent outlets have recently been designated "foreign agents" in Russia.

A term with Soviet-era undertones, the status obliges those slapped with the label to disclose sources of funding and label publications -- including social media posts -- with a tag or face fines.

The German state-owned broadcaster has services in 30 languages, including Russian.

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