British MP’s Demand ‘Russia Today’ Is Taken Off Air Over Its Poisoned Spy Story Coverage

Senior British MPs have demanded that the television watchdog revokes the licence of the Kremlin-backed Russia Today news outlet over its coverage of the poisoning of the double-agent Sergei Skripal.

Last week RT accused the British Press of ‘filling the gaps with their own fanciful theories‘ about the poisoning of Skripal, saying it actually made for a ‘pretty boring story’.

The chairman of the foreign affairs select committee said he believed the time had come to crack down on RT.

It is clear that dissenting voices are really not welcome in Big Brother Britain

Their calls for Ofcom to review whether the broadcaster had breached its licence conditions came as Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Labour MPs they should boycott the channel – just hours after his deputy appeared on it.

A spokesman for RT responded saying : ‘It’s regrettable that some see baseless attacks on RT as a way to score easy PR points, but those attacks betray not just the highest principles of the British society … but the British public at large.’

The Mail Online reports:

MPs said there were question marks over whether RT, founded by Vladimir Putin in 2005, was a genuine news outlet or a ‘mouthpiece for an authoritarian state’.

Their calls for Ofcom to review whether the broadcaster had breached its licence conditions came as Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told Labour MPs they should boycott the channel – just hours after his deputy appeared on it.

On Friday, RT accused the British Press of spreading ‘fanciful’ theories about the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, saying it actually made for a ‘pretty boring story’.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said: ‘I think the time has come to crack down on RT.

Ofcom needs to look at whether it is a genuine news network when it is considering whether it should hold a licence or not.’

Last week he told BBC Radio 5 Live: ‘I see no reason why we should allow information warfare to be carried out on UK soil by hostile agents.’

Tory MP Bob Seely, who lived for four years in the former Soviet Union, said: ‘When it comes to Russia Today, I think we have to ask some serious questions.

If the purpose is to create genuine news then fine, but if they are a mouthpiece for an authoritarian state that seeks to do us harm then it raises the question of whether we should kick them out or not.’

But former culture secretary John Whittingdale said that while it was ‘essentially a propaganda channel’, there were concerns that if the UK shut RT then Russia would retaliate.

He said: ‘There is a concern it would likely give them an excuse to retaliate by closing down the BBC [in Russia].

‘That’s a very strong weapon in our armoury in what is a disinformation war going on.’

Yesterday Mr McDonnell said he would no longer appear on RT because it ‘goes beyond objective journalism’.

His comments came just hours after Peter Dowd, Mr McDonnell’s deputy as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, went on the channel to speak about Brexit.

Mr McDonnell said that following the Salisbury attack, he would not appear on RT and there would be a discussion on whether others in the party should follow suit.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘What we are seeing from Russia Today sometimes goes beyond objective journalism.

‘I have been looking at some of what’s happening in terms of the change in coverage on Russian television in particular and I think we have to step back now.’

He said he had appeared on RT in the past, sometimes to ‘challenge some of the issues internationally’.

He appeared to be at loggerheads with his party, with a Labour spokesman saying the approach to the broadcaster would merely be ‘kept under review’.

Mr Dowd said he had appeared on RT a number of times, including at the start of last week.

He told Sky’s Sunday with Paterson: ‘In light of the events of this week, of course we will undertake a review of what we do, as you will always do in these sorts of circumstances.

‘But I have to emphasise that what I try to do is to come on to television programmes like this and answer the questions that are put to me.

‘It’s not for me to ask the questions. It’s for other people to ask the questions and if I can answer them to the best of my ability, I will.’