RT editor in chief Margarita Simonyan says Britain has “closed” the bank accounts of the Russian state broadcaster.
It was unclear whether the British government was behind the move, but the foreign office was aware of the news when contacted by the Guardian and referred inquiries to the Treasury. “All our accounts. ‘The decision is not subject to review.’ Praise be to freedom of speech!” We have an absolutely transparent operation [in the U.K.], absolutely transparent funding.
If the decision is upheld, it is likely to make it harder for RT to operate in Britain and will also stoke tensions between London and Moscow, which are already under pressure over Syria.
A British bank has withdrawn banking services from Russia’s state-owned channel RT, drawing condemnation from Moscow.
RT’s website said the decision by NatWest, a bank connected to the Royal Bank of Scotland group, was taken without an explanation.
Debate surrounding RT and its practices is nothing new but most can agree that censorship at any level is something that must be feared by every branch of the media, with many Twitter users calling the surprising development in Britain and Russian Federation relations a “violation of press freedom“.
“The bank accounts remain open and are still operative, ” a bank spokesman said in a statement. However the Guardian said it was “unclear” if the United Kingdom government had sanctioned the decision.
RT, formerly known as Russia Today, has the slogan “Question more” and was set up to present from the perspective of the Kremlin, and has been criticised as a slavish propaganda tool for President Vladimir Putin.
Western critics dismiss RT, whose British arm produces UK-specific content, as a Kremlin mouthpiece created to sow disinformation.
Simonyan on Saturday said that RT journalists working overseas were under “monstrous pressure”.
RT has previously been sanctioned by regulatory body Ofcom for biased reporting, including claims that the BBC staged a chemical weapons attack for a report on Syria. The bank added that the decision was final and no discussions would be entered into, but failed to give a reason why.