The United Kingdom has frozen the bank account of Russia’s Rossiya Segodnya news agency without any explanation.
Barclay’s froze the account in an unexplained move which Rossiya Segodnya chief Dmitry Kiselyov called “censorship,” according to RT. It is believed that the move may be related to economic sanctions imposed on Russia.
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Head of news agency decries “censorship”
“To close the account of one of the world’s leading news agencies is censorship, the direct obstruction of journalists’ work,” Dmitry Kiselyov said. “What kind of press freedom and democracy can Britain claim to have if it prevents one of the world’s largest news agencies from working in the country?”
Barclay’s did not immediately provide an explanation for the move, although RT cites an unnamed source in the banking sector who linked the action to the addition of Dmitry Kiselyov to a sanctions list.
“This is illegal,” read a tweet from Rossiya Segodnya’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan. “The sanctions imply that Kiselyov cannot travel to Europe and have personal bank accounts there. No sanctions were imposed on Rossiya Segodnya news agency.”
A number of Russians are subject to financial and travel restrictions in the European Union, which were imposed due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Kiselyov is one name on that list, and it seems his inclusion has brought problems for Rossiya Segodnya.
EU strikes back against Russian “disinformation”
The list was released on March 21, and describes Kiselyov as a “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine.”
Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK, took to Twitter to criticize the move as evidence that media sources with an alternative point of view are being subjected to censorship.
A number of Russian media sources have faced problems operating in Europe. Poland’s media watchdog recently began an investigation into a radio station which broadcasts shows produced by the Sputnik news agency. Radio Hobby may have its license revoked due to alleged abuse of broadcast law related to the “handing over some of its authorized airtime to a third party, thus forfeiting its right to influence the content and presentation of the broadcast material.”
The founder of Radio Hobby thinks that the investigation is politically motivated.
Russian media criticized in EU report
The German media watchdog launched an investigation into a local channel after it broadcast an RT-produced show, “The Missing Part.” Politicians called for the investigation after alleging that the show was biased towards Russia.
EU officials concerned by Russian propaganda launched a counteroffensive in the information war last month. The new plan works for the “promotion of EU policies” in the face of “Russian disinformation activities” in the post-Soviet states, as well as measures against Russian media.
RT gets a special mention in the 9-page paper written by the EU Foreign Service, accused of disseminating “fabrications and hate speech from their bureaus in EU cities.”
The report provoked fierce criticism from the Russian Foreign Ministry, which accused the EU of implementing a plan to restrict freedom of expression, and discriminating against Russian media.
Margarita Simonyan, Editor-in-Chief at RT, claims that hundreds of Western media sources present the same point of view, while the EU works to shut down RT for presenting an alternative take on current affairs.
Freedom of speech is an increasingly important question in Russia, which may sound ironic. Just last week Facebook was widely criticized for censoring the use of a derogatory term for Ukrainians, which the company said violated its hate speech policy. An aide to Vladimir Putin urged Russians to leave Facebook for domestic social networks, where their right to freedom of expression would be respected.