Dutch minister wants limits on RT, Sputnik ban to prevent precedent

Alexandra van Huffelen

A top Dutch official warned that the EU’s ban of Kremlin-linked news outlets RT and Sputnik must come with safeguards — reflecting some rumblings over whether the exceptional measure might set a stifling precedent.

on Wednesday, Dutch Digital Minister Alexandra van Huffelen said that while she fully supported cracking down on Russian state propaganda, the EU ban should be temporary and regularly reviewed. 

“We should try to keep it as short as possible and as long as necessary,” said van Huffelen. “It should be the one very, very exception because there is a war.”

A few days after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced plans to bar RT, formerly known as Russia Today, and Sputnik, EU countries on Tuesday approved sanctions doing just that. The legal texts were published shortly afterward, effectively providing national regulators the grounds to take both Russian state-run organizations off the air and offline within the bloc. 

The EU took the highly unusual move to cut off both channels — described in the West as tools of Moscow’s propaganda machine — amid a massive information war unfolding over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where civilian casualties are rising.

While the 27 EU governments unanimously backed the measure, three EU diplomats said the initiative had stirred some worries from a handful of countries, including the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. 

“Some member states raised concerns regarding media freedom or possible counter-measures against EU journalists working in Russia,” said one of the diplomats. “But in the end, no one wanted to defend a Russian propaganda tool.”

Politicians, legal and media experts, as well as journalist associations, have similarly raised questions about the legal and political impact of the unprecedented prohibition.

Van Huffelen said it would be important to review the sanctions “over the coming days and weeks.”

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