World, Europe

RT, Sputnik banned from media freedom conference in UK

Russian Embassy accuses UK foreign office of 'months-long smear campaign' against RT

Muhammad Mussa   | 09.07.2019
 RT, Sputnik banned from media freedom conference in UK

LONDON

Citing their role in "spreading disinformation," Britain’s foreign office has barred Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik from attending a media freedom conference in London this week.

Some 1,000 reporters, journalists, and members of civil society as well as 60 government ministers are set to be at the two-day conference on media freedom, but RT and Sputnik were refused accreditation.

"We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation,” said a foreign office statement.

“While it's not possible to accommodate all requests for accreditation, journalists from across the world's media are attending the conference, including from Russia."

The office did not mention which agencies the attending Russian journalists work for.

The Russian outlets quickly hit back, with RT saying in a statement: "It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media; sadly, the world has learned to expect just that from the UK Foreign Office."

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov blasted the decision as "a manifestation of absurdity."

He said that a conference on media freedom where journalists are denied access can only be called a "pseudo-conference".

"This is the most vivid manifestation of the absurdity of what is happening. And this absurdity, unfortunately, in some countries, including the country that hosts this event, often acquires a regular protracted character," Peskov told reporters in Moscow."

The Russian Embassy in London branded the move “direct politically motivated discrimination.”

The embassy said it has complained to the foreign office, accusing it of conducting a “months-long smear campaign” against RT.

The embassy also criticized the foreign office’s organization of the conference. They complained that delegates are not being allowed to work on the conference’s final document, which will instead be secretly drafted by a “limited group of states.”

“What better illustration of the real situation with media freedom in the UK does one need? Yet the organizers of the Conference, as far as we understand, wish to discuss the situation with media freedom anywhere in the world, but not in this country,” the embassy said in a press release.

In December 2018, U.K. media regulator Ofcom found RT to have committed several breaches of the U.K.’s broadcasting code during its reporting on the poisoning of former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last year, a poisoning blamed on Russia.

Both RT and Sputnik are funded by the Russian government.

* Elena Teslova from Moscow contributed to this story.

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