Russia Today ban could have 'consequences' says Kuenssberg
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Scotland’s First Minister has said it is “a very serious question” whether TV channel RT should be allowed to broadcast in the UK, adding Mr Salmond, who resigned from the SNP and now leads the nationalist party Alba, should quit his talk show on the station.
Ms Sturgeon claimed: “I’m appalled at Alex Salmond’s continued involvement with RT, I don’t think it’s any secret now that I don’t think he should ever have had a television show on RT, but it is even more unthinkable now that that should continue.”
Her comments come amid waves of sanctions from the West following Moscow’s invasion of Eastern Ukraine’s breakaway territories on Monday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said the Government would be targeting five Russian banks and three individuals who would have their UK assets frozen and not be allowed to enter the country.
Meanwhile, on top of calls for Mr Salmond to cut ties with RT, which critics say promotes Russian propaganda, the former first minister is under fire for his party’s stance on the crisis in Ukraine.
Though condemning Vladimir Putin’s decision to order troops into the rebel-held regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Neale Hanvey, Alba’s leader at Westminster, said the Kremlin’s “security interests” need to be considered.
He claimed “respect for Ukraine’s rights as an independent country including the recognition of the rights of the Russian speaking minority” must be balanced with “Russia’s own security interests”.
That, he continued, requires the UK’s “acceptance that assurances were offered in the 1990s about NATO expansion eastward” that have now been broken.
Despite acknowledging the need for sanctions, Mr Hanvey cautioned the West to think about what is at stake for themselves.
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He said: “Sanctions can and should be introduced and in terms of dirty London money are long overdue but they must be carefully targeted if they are not to be counterproductive to our own economic security.”
When asked about The Alex Salmond Show, which airs every Thursday on the controversial RT, Mr Sturgeon replied: “I don’t think any elected representative should be contemplating appearing on RT right now, I will give that message — have given that message — to elected officials here at the Scottish Parliament, I know Ian Blackford has done so in Westminster.”
RT, previously known as Russia Today, is freely available to British audiences.
Ofcom ruled against the channel for inaccurate reporting on the conflict in Syria in 2012. In 2018, it claimed Mr Salmond had undermined viewers’ trust with misleading reporting.
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The First Minister said: “It’s a matter for Ofcom, but I do think there is now a very serious question about whether RT should continue to have a licence to broadcast here in Scotland and I would certainly encourage Ofcom to look at that very, very seriously and closely indeed.”
Ms Sturgeon’s view is widely backed in British politics.
Her party’s defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald described RT as “critical” in supporting and attempting to justify “Russian aggression”.
Accusing the Government of “pretending” the TV station was the “benign equivalent” of media such as the BBC World Service or France24, the MP claimed: “They are not. It’s time they went.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged the Prime Minister to address the dangers posed by the pro-Russia broadcaster, saying in the the Commons: “Putin’s campaign of misinformation should be tackled. Russia Today should be prevented from broadcasting its propaganda around the world.”
An Ofcom spokesperson wrote in a statement: “All licensees must observe Ofcom’s rules, including due accuracy and due impartiality.
“If broadcasters break those rules, we will not hesitate to step in.
“Given the seriousness of the Ukraine crisis, we will examine complaints about any broadcaster’s coverage of these events as a priority.”
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