European Commission approves three-month ban of Russian TV station “RTR Planeta”

by Jonas Rusche

The Lithuanian radio and television commission (RTLC) suspended the Russian language channel “RTR Planeta” for three months, from 21November 2016 to 21 February 2017. Four days before the suspension period was over, the European Commission (EC) decided that this action was in line with the EU-level “Audiovisual Media Services Directive” (AVMSD).

TV satellite Lithuanian authorities suspended "RTR Planeta" from broadcasting for three months after inciting hatred.

The EC’s decision came after the TV channel had complained to Lithuanian authorities about the suspension. The case related to three programmes “RTR Planeta”, broadcast from Sweden to Lithuania, aired between November 2015 and October 2016.

Statements in these programmes “partly related to an ongoing military confrontation involving Russia and contained unambiguous threats of occupation or destruction of other States, including the Baltic States,” the EC stated in its announcement.

This falls under the jurisdiction of the AVMSD as incitement of hatred. The EU directive prohibits all television channels in Europe from engaging in hate speech against individuals and ethnic or religious minorities.

Strengthening laws against hate speech in European media

The ban, put in place by Lithuanian authorities, comes after a first suspension of the same media outlet in 2015. During the same year, Latvia likewise suspended “RTR Planeta” for three months.

In both cases, the European Commission found the actions of the local authorities to be based on sufficient proof and therefore not discriminatory or disproportionate.

The European Commission has been trying to renew and sharpen its jurisdiction in place, in its fight against hate speech. As of May last year, a proposal to amend the AVMSD has been on the table.

The proposed revision would widen the protection against hate speech by including “incitement to violence or hatred” against ethnic origin, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Currently, it is limited to incitement to hatred on grounds of race, sex, religion or nationality, and violations of human dignity concerning individuals. The proposed measures would also require online platforms to protect their users against these offences, a direction that has caused controversy.


Find the full text of the EC’s decision (in English) here.

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Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –