Russian foreign ministry’s biased and selective take on RSF publications
The Russian embassy in France has reacted to a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Internet censorship in Russia by accusing RSF of bias but, amazingly, in the course of so doing, it has referred to a Russian foreign ministry report on human rights violations in other countries that quotes RSF extensively (and selectively).
The updated version of RSF’s report on digital censorship in Russia that was published at the end of August says that, under President Vladimir Putin, the authorities have restricted onlinepress freedom and free speech massively in Russia in recent months.
Reacting in a tweet two weeks before parliamentary elections in Russia, Moscow’s embassy in Paris said: “Their new anti-Russian ‘report’ is biased and based on a limited version of the facts. It would be useful for RSF and other NGOs of a similar ilk to pay more attention to the flagrant human rights violations in their own countries.”
The tweet has a link to a report entitled “Human rights situation in certain countries” that the Russian foreign ministry published in July. It evaluates the situation in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many European countries, which obviously do not include Russia itself or any Russian allies. True to one of the key themes of Kremlin diplomacy, it highlights shortcomings in western countries, but often on the basis of flawed comparisons and overstated interpretations.
Ironically, the authors of foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s report quote RSF more often than any other press freedom organisation. In all, RSF’s information and analyses are quoted for 16 of the 40 countries covered by the report. Inter alia, the report mentions RSF’s criticisms of the threat that increased state surveillance poses to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources in France, violence against reporters in Germany, and broadcasting restrictions targeting the RT group in Lithuania.
“Russian diplomacy is clearly very ambivalent about RSF and seems to pay very selective attention to what we say,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Selective attention is not unique to Russia, but Russian leaders take it further than others. In a report published by the Russian foreign ministry in July, we seem to be seen as an authority on press freedom in other countries. But, two months later, the embassy in Paris wrongfully accuses us of being anti-Russian.”
Deloire added: “We suggest that Moscow abandon the ‘double standards’ approach it sometimes rightly accuses other countries of using. Instead, we place our faith in the ability of the Russian authorities to also take account of our assessments and recommendations with regard to their own country, and we will always be ready to discuss these issues with them in a constructive manner.”
Russia is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.