Russia has decided to close the Moscow bureau of CBC/Radio-Canada and deprive its journalists of their visas and accreditation, saying it is retaliating after Canada banned Russian state TV RT.
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Canada and other countries of “open attacks on Russian media.”
“A decision was made to impose retaliatory measures against Canada’s actions: the closure of the Moscow office of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, including the cancellation of accreditations and visas of their journalists,” Zakharova said. in Russian, his remarks translated by Reuters.
The Russian Embassy in Ottawa confirmed the development.
💬#Zakharova : In response to Ottawa’s ban on @RT_com and @RTenfrancaisthe Moscow office of Canada’s national public broadcaster @CBC will be closed and the accreditation and visas of its journalists will be cancelled. pic.twitter.com/AeHyAU9RYb
The move comes after Canada’s telecommunications regulator announced on March 16 that it was removing RT and RT France, the stations formerly known as Russia Today, from the list of programming services and stations not which are authorized for distribution in Canada.
Why Russia waited two months to announce its decision was unclear.
Zakharova also accused Ottawa of “anti-Russian policy”. “Essentially,” she said, “CBC has become a mouthpiece for propaganda that distributes false and questionable material regarding our country.”
Radio-Canada “deeply disappointed”
CBC News editor-in-chief Brodie Fenlon said Russia’s decision was “very disappointing”.
“CBC News and its reporters are completely and entirely independent of any government or agency, so we have nothing to do with these [regulatory] the decisions. We were there to report what is happening in Russia – in fact, [and] precisely,” Fenlon said in an interview.
“Obviously we know that the freedom of the media and the press in Russia has been seriously curtailed. I guess we are the latest proof of that.”
CBC/Radio-Canada had had a bureau in Moscow for over 44 years and was the only Canadian news organization with a permanent presence in the country. His office had nine employees, including editorial and administrative staff, some of whom were locally hired Russians.
It was believed that this was the first time that a foreign government had forced the closure of a Radio-Canada office.
Fenlon said CBC would continue to cover Russia from outside the country.
Federal government criticizes Russia’s decision
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Russia’s decision “unfortunate but not surprising.”
“Truth, responsible journalism, sharing what is really happening with citizens is a deep threat to Vladimir Putin and his illegal war of authoritarian tendencies,” Trudeau told reporters.
“Canada will always stand for a free and strong independent press that does its job, challenges and reveals what is happening in the world.”
Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez contrasted the decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to remove RT from the Canadian airwaves and Russia’s decision to close the CBC office in Moscow.
“It’s a totally independent decision from the CRTC… I asked the CRTC to do an investigation, to consult Canadians, which they did for two weeks. They met with hundreds of people and they made a very detailed decision, a decision of 7,000 This is what is happening in Canada. In Russia, just like that, they expel a journalist. Major difference,” Rodriguez told reporters on Parliament Hill.
The penalties continue
Last month, Russia announced sanctions against 61 Canadians, including CBC President Catherine Tait and several journalists from other outlets.
Canada introduced a bill in the Senate on Tuesday barring Russian President Vladimir Putin and about 1,000 members of his government and military from entering the country, as it continues to increase sanctions against the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In March, Putin signed a law imposing a prison term of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “false” information about the military, prompting some Western media outlets to withdraw their journalists from Russia.
Russian officials do not use the word “invasion” and say Western media have provided a biased account of the war in Ukraine that ignores Russian concerns about NATO expansion and alleged persecution of Russian speakers.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly chastised the West for what he calls an undemocratic crackdown on Russian state media which he said offered an alternative to Western narratives.
Putin presents war as an inevitable confrontation with the United States, which he accuses of threatening Russia by interfering in its backyard and expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military alliance.
Ukraine says it is fighting land grabbing the imperial way and that Putin’s claims about genocide and persecution of Russian speakers are nonsense.