Russia, Zakharova to Borrell: “We start banning books and end up burning people”

The High Representative for Foreign Policy of the European Union: “Russia media sanctions to protect freedom of expression”

”You start by banning, burning books and you end up burning people”. This is how the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova responded to the words of the High Representative for Foreign Policy of the European Union Josep Borrell, according to whom ”the ban on the Russian media is equivalent to a defense of freedom of speech”. As stated in the statement released on Twitter by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Zakharova said: ”Let me remind you that Europe has already adopted this logic once”.

Borrell, speaking this morning at a conference on information manipulation at the EEAS, explained that “thanks to the extensive evidence we have gathered with EUvsDisinfo, we have been able to impose restrictive measures on the Kremlin’s propaganda machine and prevent it from operating within of the European Union. In this way we are not attacking freedom of expression, we are only protecting freedom of expression”.

“This – he added – is part of our sanctions against the Kremlin spokesmen, who send a strong signal: we know how they manipulate our ecosystem and how they operate. And we are strong in our determination”.

“This war – continued Borrell – is not only being waged on the battlefield by soldiers. It is also taking place in the information space, trying to win people’s hearts and minds. You will say to me: ‘Nothing new about this, Goebbels he already did it during the Second World War: lying and spreading disinformation is nothing new”. Well, what is new today is the intensity, the will and the tools. Goebbels did not have the Internet, he did not have social media. Today, people who act like Goebbels, telling a lie a thousand times, have a powerful ability to multiply at the speed of light and reach everyone everywhere.”

“Inside Russia – continued Borrell – the repression of freedom of expression and freedom of the media has reached unprecedented levels. Like any authoritarian regime, especially when at war, it must hide the number of victims from its own population it is suffering. Just 10 days ago, one of the last independent media in Russia, Meduza, was designated as an ‘unwanted organization’. And anyone who tries to tell the truth is immediately considered a ‘foreign agent'”.

“We try to support them – he added – we stand alongside the independent Russian media, civil society, human rights defenders who, despite the continuous repression they suffer, continue to defend human rights and oppose authoritarianism and war” .