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What stops Russian RT from cable network in Bangladesh

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Despite growing bilateral relations between Dhaka and Moscow, Russian RT (formerly known as Russia Today) – an international news channel known for its balanced coverage on global issues is not available on cable networks in Bangladesh. Political West may have banned RT under their practice of branding it as “Russian state influence and propaganda aimed at undermining national security interests or destabilizing democratic institutions”, such hostile mindset certainly does not prevail in Bangladesh while Dhaka has always distanced itself from Western nation’s blueprint of cow-towing Moscow and Beijing under numerous excuses, and Bangladesh’s policymakers emphasize special attention to taking numerous steps in further strengthening Dhaka’s existing cordial relations with Russia and China.

For the last couple of years, RT has faced numerous intimidating actions while it was removed from the services in the United States which was offered by DirecTV on March 1, 2022, following Russia’s special military operations in Ukraine, with Ora Media pausing production on several shows it produced for RT America. Dish Network dropped the channel on March 4, 2022.

YouTube, on March 1, 2022 banned access to all RT and Sputnik channels on its platform in Europe (including Britain). Apple followed by removing RT and Sputnik from its App Store in all countries except Russia. Roku dropped the RT app from its channel store.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, confirmed to Reuters that it had removed RT and other state-funded outlets from its news-related features, including the Google News search tool.

It may be mentioned here that, in highly competitive media markets, cable networks may prioritize channels that attract larger audiences and higher advertising revenues. RT’s size of audience in the Western nations, including the United States was witnessing steady growth, which was one of the key reasons that it faces undue harassment.

RT enjoys popularity for its anti-imperialist editorial policy and for promoting peace, sustainability, environmental health and caring for fellow human beings. These were key factors behind RT’s growing popularity even in the United States, while it also was seen as a threat to other American news networks, including CNN as people were watching RT to sometimes find the truth from the heavy cloud of false narratives and propaganda spread by the US media.

RT was conceived as a response to what the Russian government perceived as Western media dominance and bias in reporting global news. The network’s mission statement emphasizes providing an alternative viewpoint to mainstream media narratives and offering a platform for voices marginalized by Western media outlets. RT aims to challenge prevailing narratives, promote diversity of opinion, and offer a platform for underrepresented perspectives.

Since its inception in 2005, RT has expanded its reach beyond Russia, targeting international audiences through its multilingual broadcasts, online platforms, and social media presence. Its global expansion has been facilitated by partnerships with cable and satellite TV providers, online streaming platforms, and mobile apps, allowing it to reach millions of viewers across continents.

Although RT remains shut-down in the United States since 2022 mainly because it denied to parrot the disinformation and propaganda centering Ukraine conflict, Western nations would say, “In some countries, government regulations and policies restrict or prohibit the broadcasting of foreign media outlets that are perceived as propagandistic or politically biased. RT, being funded by the Russian government, might have faced regulatory hurdles or censorship in certain jurisdictions”.

In fact, such claims or statements centering “government regulations and policies” are simply false or at least notorious excuses for suffocating freedom of press. To understand the density of Western nation’s cruelty towards any independent news media, we can consider the very recent case of Tucker Carlson, who interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to media reports, Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, Carlson was in Moscow earlier in February 2024 for the interview while the interview took place on February 6. Meanwhile, a new report claims that a native Russian has been arrested for the attempted assassination of Tucker Carlson.

The information says, a Russian native, Vasiliev Pyotr Alexeieovich revealed the plot against Carlson. He said that Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (MDI) offered to pay him US$4,000 for the task. Alexeievich claims that initially, he was unaware of the target, but now he knows it was ‘Tucker Carlson’. Alexeieovich was recruited by MDI in November 2023 and was trained in special communications and detonation of explosive devices. He was supposed to place the explosive device under a vehicle at Moscow’s Four Seasons Hotel’s underground parking space.

Following the release of a video containing a confessional statement of Vasilies Pyott Alexeieovic, a number of Western media outlets, including the Voice of America published a series of reports by terming Alexeieovic’s statement as false.

This case is one of the classic examples why the Kremlin requires its own media outlet like RT to counter the West’s continuous propaganda targeting Russia.

According to data available on the web, RT is available on cable networks in numerous countries around the world. It has a wide international reach and is broadcast in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Arabic, and French. But unfortunately, it is yet to include Bangla and Hindi. It may be mentioned here that, currently to over 580 million people, Hindi is the mother tongue whereas the size of people who do understand Hindi is far-bigger. Similarly, as of 2021, with approximately 290 million native speakers and another 41 million as second language speakers as of 2021, Bangla (also known as Bengali) is the sixth most spoken native language and the seventh most spoken language by the total number of speakers in the world. Bangla also is recognized as the Top-10 sweetest language in the world. Considering these statistics, RT may consider adding Hindi and Bangla chunks in its bouquet of languages, which certainly will increase its size of audiences worldwide.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a multi-award-winning journalist, writer, research-scholar, and Editor, Blitz, a newspaper publishing from Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. Follow him on X @Salah_Shoaib

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