Russian media outlets banned from covering Emmanuel Macron campaign for spreading fake news
Russia has accused the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron of ‘deliberate and barefaced discrimination’ against Russian media after he banned RT and Sputnik from his campaign events. The move comes amid accusations that hacking groups suspected of having Kremlin links have target Macron’s electoral campaign. The French presidential hopeful, who supports the sanctions put in place against Russia following its annexation of Ukraine, will face off against the far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the race for the Elysee on 7 May. Le Pen, who wants to lift the sanctions and foster closer ties to the Kremlin, visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in March and has admitted receiving millions in campaign funding from Russia.
Responding to the accusations RT said on its website that it “adamantly rejects any and all claims that it has any part in spreading fake news in general and in relation to Mr. Macron and the upcoming French election in particular… Indeed, it seems that it has become acceptable to level such serious charges at RT without presenting any evidence to substantiate them, as well as to apply this ‘fake news’ label to any reporting that one might simply find unfavorable.”
A report by a Tokyo-based internet security firm called Trend Micro detailed the operations of the Pawn Storm hacking group which it alleges set up fake websites with the aim of phishing for the email passwords of people working on the Macron campaign. US intelligence services allege that the same group, under the name Fancy Bears, was responsible for similar attacks against Hillary Clinton’s failed White House bid. The emails obtained through these hacks were published during the campaign leading to assertions that they were part of a Kremlin-backed plan to see Donald Trump elected to the presidency.
Last November MEP’s adopted a resolution condemning Russian interference in European politics noting that “the Russian government is employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as think tanks […], multilingual TV stations (e.g. Russia Today), pseudo-news agencies and multimedia services (e.g. Sputnik) […], social media and internet trolls, to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov labelled the allegations as “absurd” adding, “We had and have no intention of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, especially in their electoral processes.”