Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s conversation with RT France and Sputnik France journalists as part of his visit to the RT France office, Paris, November 27, 2018
RT journalist: Welcome.
Sergey Lavrov: Your office is quite a place. So it turns out that French sovereignty is being undermined by these beautiful ladies.
RT journalist: Our colleague happened to be in the midst of action in Paris on Sunday. He was actually tear-gassed, after which he was hit by a water cannon.
Sergey Lavrov: I heard that water helps when mucous membranes are exposed to tear gas, so the fact that the water cannon came after the tear gas was the right sequence.
RT journalist: We are not allowed in the Élysée Palace as a matter of principle. But today was an exception.
Sergey Lavrov: What matters is who watches you, and not where you are allowed to go.
On December 6-7, Milan will be hosting the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting. We prepared a number of initiatives for this event, and one of them consists of reaffirming word for word the commitments assumed by the parties at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in 1990, when Perestroika and fraternisation were in full play. Back then, we committed ourselves to providing that the media and the public have unimpeded access to information. This means that in terms of these commitments the media who do not have access to information are viewed as “disadvantaged” (limited in their rights). We will see how they respond.
RT journalist: The most interesting part is that in this situation we did not receive an outright refusal, neither orally nor in writing.
Sergey Lavrov: You are simply denied access?
RT journalist: We have an SMS telling us that they will decide on a case-by case basis what we can and cannot attend. We were allowed in once, while Sputnik was not granted access even a single time.
Sergey Lavrov: Aren’t you even more “brash” than RT?
Sputnik journalist: I would not say so. No one gave us a single example of our “brash” attitude. Neither did we receive any formal refusals, we are simply not allowed in.
Sergey Lavrov: I gave a firm promise to Jean-Yves Le Drian that when he reaffirms once again that you are not a media outlet but a propaganda tool, there will be no vengeance on our part against French journalists accredited in Moscow. After all, we are polite people.
Sergey Lavrov: You have a great atmosphere in your office. To be honest, the working environment feels quite casual.
RT journalist: Usually we have a working and a very messy environment. But just because the minister is here we are so excited.
Sergey Lavrov: Normally it’s the other way around. You do not do anything until your boss comes, and then you start imitating activity.
RT journalist: In general I think that we are very lucky, because we have a very motivated team. The only thing that worries us is the new fake news law.
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I mentioned this today to Jean-Yves Le Drian. He did not comment on it. It is not only a matter of French national legislation, but also of international initiatives coming from Paris, as we discussed today, aimed at whitelisting certain media outlets, leaving others outside of the platforms. This declaration was drafted by Reporters Without Borders. It is being picked up by a number of governments. I asked today the question why matters related to universal approaches to news, be they fake or not fake, are not being discussed in a universal format, within the OSCE for Europe or the United Nations, if it is about a global approach.
Besides, we do not understand the attempts to regulate the internet outside of the international frameworks. There is a Declaration on Information and Democracy, as well as the Paris Call, adopted at or immediately after the Paris Peace Forum (November 11-14, 2018). The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has been discussing issues related to internet governance for many years. Certainly, the Americans are not very eager to discuss this with anyone, being the place where the internet was born and where the internet is still regulated, basically.
I understand that to discuss and negotiate something in a universal context where all kinds of views are represented is much more difficult than to do something that you like and then to try to sell it by different means. But something which has been labouriously negotiated is much more sustainable than something that you try to sell unilaterally. We will see how it evolves.
I wish you all the best.