Macron team's media 'ban' riles Russia

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron kicking a football during a campaign visit to Sarcelles, north Paris, on Thursday. The camp has accused Russia of attacking its databases, fuelling suspicions that the Kremlin is trying to undermine the c
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron kicking a football during a campaign visit to Sarcelles, north Paris, on Thursday. The camp has accused Russia of attacking its databases, fuelling suspicions that the Kremlin is trying to undermine the centrist's campaign to help rival Marine Le Pen.PHOTO: REUTERS

Moscow rejects accusations of meddling in French politician's campaign

MOSCOW • Russia has accused French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign team of discriminating against its media, saying the campaign had trampled on the freedom of the press by banning Russian news outlets from its events.

The Kremlin has been irritated by accusations from the Macron camp that its campaign's networks, databases and sites have come under attack from locations inside Russia, fuelling suspicions that Russia is trying to undermine Mr Macron's campaign to help his rival, Ms Marine Le Pen.

On Thursday, the far-right Ms Le Pen, who has said she admires Russian President Vladimir Putin and backs the lifting of the European Union's economic sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict, hopped onto a fishing boat at dawn as she pursued a guerilla-style campaign that has upstaged the front-running Mr Macron.

It was still dark when she boarded a trawler at the small southern port of Grau-du-Roi for a four-hour trip out to sea, seeking to portray herself as the protector of small-time producers against the man she says embodies "unbridled globalisation".

That same day, Moscow rejected allegations of meddling, and Ms Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, told a news briefing that the Macron campaign had refused to accredit the Sputnik news agency, the RT TV channel and the Ruptly video agency for the first round of the French election, meaning they were unable to get proper access to Mr Macron's campaign events.

Both Sputnik and RT receive Russian state funding. Calling the move "outrageous", Ms Zakharova said Moscow viewed the ban as "deliberate and barefaced discrimination against Russian media by the presidential candidate of a state that has historically been vigilant when it comes to free speech." She called on the relevant French authorities and international organisations to ensure that freedom of the press was upheld in the second round of the presidential election, which is scheduled for May 7. RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said: "So this is how gracelessly freedom of speech ends in a country that prides itself on its freedoms almost more than it prides itself on its Camembert and Brie cheeses."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Macron team's media 'ban' riles Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe