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UK asks regulator to review licence of Russian channel RT – Johnson

© Reuters. Vehicles of Russian state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today (RT) are seen near the Red Square in central Moscow, Russia June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/Files

By Muvija M and William James

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has asked the media regulator to review the broadcast licence of Russian news channel RT after the Kremlin recognised two rebel regions of eastern Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries expressed concerns to the media regulator that RT was part of Moscow’s information armoury and would spread misleading disinformation about the Ukraine crisis, according to a letter leaked to The Times newspaper.

Asked about the matter in parliament, Johnson said he believed Dorries had asked the regulator, known as Ofcom, to review the licence but cautioned that it should be given the space to make its own decisions.

“We live in a country that believes in free speech,” Johnson told parliament. “And I think it’s important that we should leave it up to Ofcom rather than to politicians to decide which media organisations to ban – that’s what Russia does.”

RT hit back at earlier criticism from British politicians, saying that they seemed to be trying to meddle in the affairs of a regulator which was supposed to be independent.

Russian officials say RT is a way for Moscow to compete with the dominance of global media companies based in the United States and Britain which they say offer a particular view of the world.

Critics say RT, which broadcasts news in English, Arabic, Spanish and German, is the propaganda arm of the Russian state and aims to undermine confidence in Western institutions.

Ofcom said it would prioritise complaints about any broadcaster’s news coverage of Russia and Ukraine due to the seriousness of the crisis.

“Given the seriousness of the Ukraine crisis, we will examine complaints about any broadcaster’s news coverage of this issue as a priority,” the regulator said.

British politicians “seem to be trying to directly or indirectly interfere in institutions they tout as supposedly independent and wholly free from political pressure,” Anna Belkina, RT deputy editor in chief, told Reuters.

“These comments once more undermine the independence of the UK regulator.”

UK asks regulator to review licence of Russian channel RT – Johnson

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