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French watchdog sued in top court over Russian TV decision

French rights group Reporters Without Borders has filed a lawsuit in France to try to prevent satellite operator Eutelsat from continuing to broadcast three Russian channels.

The press-freedom group filed a claim with France’s top administrative court asking it to reverse a decision by media regulator Arcom that lets Eutelsat continue broadcasting Rossiya 1, Perviy Kanal and NTV.

“Arcom’s refusal to take up a major issue to fight propaganda and support journalism is very regrettable,” Christophe Deloire, the head of Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement shared with Bloomberg. “RSF is asking the Conseil d’Etat to declare it illegal.”

In September, the French media regulator said it would review a request by Reporters Without Borders to ask Eutelsat to stop broadcasting three Russian TV channels. In a response to RSF on September 28, Arcom said there wasn’t a legal basis for blocking the channels since they are broadcast by several satellites and France couldn’t be identified as the unique source. It also said the channels were mainly broadcast in Russian territory, with a “very limited number” of EU citizen accessing it.

RSF replied in its statement today that Eutelsat is a French company and that the channels are available in the EU, namely in Baltic countries, and in Ukraine.

Eutelsat is committed to “neutrality” as an infrastructure operator, Chief Executive Office Eva Berneke, told Bloomberg on Nov. 22. “Anytime Arcom says this channel is a no-go we’ll take it down, which is what we’ve done with around 10 channels that were distributed.”

“We confirm that a claim has been filed,” a spokeswoman for Arcom said. “It will be up to the Conseil d’Etat to decide.” Bloomberg

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