YouTube bans Russia Today in the Balkans, the Journalists’ Association of Serbia defends Russian propaganda

The YouTube platform has banned the channels “Russia Today Balkan” (RTBalkan), “Relativizacija” by Ljiljana Smajlović and the podcast “Lokomotiva” due to propagandistic content. These bans followed the bans of the channels of the same TV that were banned this summer: “My Five Minutes” and “Tips for Drivers”.

The media company points out that the main channel RT “survived” the shortest time on Google because it was shut down after just three weeks, as was the channel “News in Two Minutes”.

James Rubin, the State Department’s special envoy for the Western Balkans and coordinator of the Center for Global Engagement, spoke about the danger posed by this media channel and recently said that the integrity of information as well as territorial integrity in the Balkans should not be compromised, stating that Russian media RT Balkan and Sputnik are being misused to create division in countries such as Montenegro and North Macedonia.

Although it is the task of journalists associations around the world to protect professional reporting and protection from propaganda, the Russian propaganda medium was supported by the Association of Journalists of Serbia (UNS), which described the closure of the RT Balkan channel as censorship and called for its return to the YouTube platform.

The UNS’s only justification was that these broadcasts were still available on platforms X, Instagram and Facebook and were therefore not censored in their opinion.

The European Union has banned Russian-sponsored media such as Sputnik and Russia Today from broadcasting on its territory.

The decision is part of the sanctions against Russia’s political regime, which is attacking Ukraine with military troops.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, explained that the ban on these two media was a sign that the European Union would not tolerate division.

“In times of war, words are important. We are witnessing massive propaganda and disinformation about attacks taking place in an independent and free state. We will not allow them to poison us with lies that justify Putin’s war and try to divide our Union,” she said.

But Serbia did not follow Western policy here either and punished Russia for starting an all-out war against Ukraine. While it was banned in Europe, Russia Today opened a branch in Serbia to continue the propaganda of Russian power in the Balkan country and maintain its influence.

The European Union responded by declaring that it expected Serbia not to intensify its relations with Russia.

Serbia is expected to respect the decisions of the European Union, which include restricting the broadcasting of Russian state television Russia Today (RT), according to the July 15 reaction.

“RT is part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation tools used by the Kremlin to monitor the illegal aggression against Ukraine and the murders of the Ukrainian people,” it said. “In this context, we expect Serbia to refrain from intensifying relations with Russia, as it is a country that massively violates the United Nations Charter and international law,” said Peter Stano, the EU spokesperson for security and foreign policy at the time.

When Russia Today opened in Serbia, it started with propaganda against Kosovo from the very beginning.

The news was confirmed on Twitter by RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, with the message: “We launched RT in the Balkans because Kosovo is Serbia.”