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Russia shuts down CBC/Radio-Canada Moscow bureau, removes journalist accreditations

Move in retaliation for Ottawa’s ban on Kremlin-backed RT, formerly known as Russia Today
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova gestures as she attends Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s annual roundup news conference summing up his ministry’s work in 2019, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it is shutting down CBC/Radio-Canada’s Moscow bureau and revoking the accreditations and visas of its journalists.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday that the move is in retaliation for Ottawa’s ban on Kremlin-backed RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and RT France from being broadcast in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russia’s move was unacceptable, and that Canada would continue to stand up for a free press.

“Obviously the truth, responsible journalism, sharing what’s actually going on with citizens, is a deep threat to Vladimir Putin and his illegal war and his authoritarian tendencies … it’s unfortunate, but not surprising, that he’s trying to shut down strong journalistic institutions.”

CBC News Editor-in-Chief Brodie Fenlon said CBC/Radio-Canada is deeply disappointed to learn of the news.

“Our journalism is completely independent of the Canadian government and we are saddened to see the Russian government conflate the two,” he said on Twitter.

Fenlon noted that the broadcaster, the only Canadian news organization with a permanent presence in the country, has maintained a Moscow bureau for 44 years. He said this was the first time to the organization’s knowledge that a foreign government has forced the closure of one of its bureaus.

“This appears to be another step by Russia to stifle a free and independent press within its borders.”

In March, CBC/Radio-Canada said it had temporarily suspended reporting in Russia because of new legislation in the country that “appears to criminalize independent reporting on the current situation in Ukraine and Russia.”

And in April, Russia widened a list of sanctioned Canadians, adding 61 more people including several journalists such as Globe and Mail international correspondent Mark MacKinnon, and National Post columnist John Ivison, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Globe and the president and CEO of CBC.

Canada’s broadcast regulator removed RT and RT France from its authorized list of programming services and stations in mid-March after it found programming targeting Ukrainians constituted abusive comment.

The move came after the federal government formally asked the CRTC to review the presence of the broadcaster on Canadian airwaves on March 2.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time that action was needed to combat falsehoods and disinformation by Russia about the invasion of Ukraine, including on social media.

Numerous other countries, and the entire European Union, have also banned RT broadcasts.

—The Canadian Press

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