Britain warns of RT ban
The British government has asked the country’s communications regulatory body to reconsider the broadcasting license of Russian TV channel RT, accusing the company of being part of a “global disinformation campaign.”
On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries had written to Ofcom, asking it to consider suspending RT’s right to be on British TV screens.
In the letter, Dorries called free media a “cornerstone” of British democracy, but suggested that the Russia-based outlet should be stopped from broadcasting inside the UK.
“RT is demonstrably part of Russia’s global disinformation campaign, as its own editor-in-chief has made clear in the past, who has called the network an ‘information weapon’ of the Russian state,” it said.
In response, RT’s deputy editor-in-chief and head of communications, Anna Belkina, accused the British government of “openly and brazenly interfering” in a “supposedly independent” regulatory body, suggesting that MPs are exposing London’s “self-proclaimed commitment” to free speech as a “sham.”
“RT’s operational and editorial independence from all governments is legally protected and always has been. Ofcom recognizes this and has long endorsed RT as a license holder,” Belkina said on Wednesday.
“Even in the face of undue political pressure, it has continuously found RT to be in line with other UK broadcasters, without a single breach of broadcasting code to be found in the last four years – not something that can be said about many other channels in the country.”
The government’s decision to request a review of RT’s license follows a suggestion by Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition. He dubbed the channel “Putin propaganda” and called for it to be banned. Johnson rejected this suggestion, noting that it should instead be put to the regulatory body.
“We live in a country that believes in free speech. I think it’s important we leave it up to Ofcom, rather than politicians, to decide which media organizations to ban,” Johnson said.