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Europe

Russia accuses France 24 TV of breaking media law

media France 24's entrance in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

Russia's media regulator on Friday accused RFI's sister TV channel, France 24, of breaking the country's media laws, following a French warning to Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT.

France 24 is in violation of Russia's ban on foreigners from holding more than a 20-percent stake in Russian media outlets, forcing them to be controlled by local legal entities, the Russian watchdog, Roszkomnadzor, said in a statement.

France 24 broadcasts in English on Russian satellite packages and has about 1,348,000 weekly viewers, according to figures established in 2014.

"It was established that the editorial activity of the channel is under the control of a foreign legal entity, which is a violation of media law 19.1," the statement said.

Roszkomnadzor claims to have sent a letter to France 24 warning that an outlet can be closed if Russian laws are violated, the channel said on Friday that it had received no word from the Russian authorities.

"We respect the laws of the countries in which we broadcast," a spokesman said.

Reprisal for French warning

RT chief editor Margarita Simonyan said that the Roszkomnadzor statement was a retaliatory measure for a warning to her channel by French regulator, CSA.

"Russia is a big country," Simonyan told state news agency RIA Novosti. "Unlike many, we can afford ourselves the luxury of tit-for-tat measures."

On Thursday the CSA criticised a report on the Syrian conflict entitled "Fake attacks" for broadcasting a translation alleging simulated chemical attacks in the eastern Ghouta enclave over a soundbite in Arabic describing starvation in the area.

The translation referred to a statement made later in the same interview, according to both the CSA and RT.

Another resident was said to have attributed an order to simulate the effects of a chemical attack to the Islamist group Jaysh al Islam, despite the fact that no organisation was named in the interview, according to the CSA.

It found that the report showed a "marked lack of balance in its analysis, without different points of view being aired on such a sensitive subject".

The problem arose from a "technical error which has been corrected", RT said in a statement and its French-language boss, Xenia Fedorova, insisted that its coverage is balanced, "allowing all parties to speak".

Britain's broadcasting regulator Ofcom has threatened to take action against RT, notably over reports on Syria and east Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron accused the channel of "lying propaganda" during last year's election campaign.

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