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French regulator warns Russian TV on Syria misinformation

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s media regulator has issued Russian TV channel RT with a warning over misrepresenting facts in a programme about Syria.

A reporter holds a microphone with a logo of RT France, formerly known as "Russia Today" during May Day celebrations in Paris, France, May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

The Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) said in a statement that an April 13 RT programme about Syria had displayed a “lack of honesty, rigour and diversity of points of view”. RT France denied any wrongdoing.

In a news item headlined “Simulated Attacks”, RT contested whether chemical attacks in the eastern Syria region of Ghouta had happened and accused a local group of staging the effects of the attack on the population. RT had not faithfully translated comments of Syrian witnesses, the CSA said.

“The CSA notes that there was a marked imbalance in the analysis, which, on a topic as sensitive as this, did not lay out the different points of view,” the CSA said.

The CSA imposed no sanctions on RT, but the regulator has the authority to fine a broadcaster or suspend its licence.

RT France said in a statement it acknowledged a mistake in the French translation of comments from a Syrian witness but said this was a purely technical error which had been corrected.

“RT France covers all subjects, including the Syrian conflict, in a totally balanced manner, by giving all sides a chance to comment,” said RT France president Xenia Fedorova.

RT’s French-language broadcast is only available to TV subscribers of French telecoms group Free, not via the other three operators. It can also be watched on the internet or via satellite.

French President Emmanuel Macron has described RT, formerly called Russia Today, as a tool for “influence-peddling”.

Accused of spreading misinformation during Macron’s 2012 presidential campaign, RT was banned from his campaign headquarters.

During a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Versailles last year, Macron said the broadcaster and Russian press agency Sputnik had on several occasions spread fake news and deceitful propaganda.

Russia has denied any interference in the French election.

Reporting by Gwénaëlle Barzic; Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Andrew Roche