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Boris Johnson criticises RT and calls for Ofcom review

It came after the EU announced it will ban the channel.

Ted Hennessey
Sunday 27 February 2022 21:17 GMT
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets members of the Ukrainian community at the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London (Jamie Lorriman/PA)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets members of the Ukrainian community at the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London (Jamie Lorriman/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson has criticised news channel RT for “peddling” material that is “doing a lot of damage to the truth” and called for Ofcom to look at if it is “infringing the rules of this country”.

The Prime Minister, speaking at the Ukrainian Cathedral of the Holy Family on Sunday evening, said if he had the power to ban the channel he would.

It came after the EU announced it will ban the channel.

Mr Johnson said: “We have a principle in this country that we don’t allow politicians to ban this or that media organisation.

“And that’s the way we do it.

“And I think we’re better for that.

“But I’ve got to tell you that I think the stuff that RT is peddling at the moment is doing a lot of damage to the truth, and I think it’s important that Ofcom should look at it and make up its mind about whether that organisation is infringing the rules of this country.”

Red Square (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Archive)

When it was put to him that it sounded like he would ban it if he had the power to do so, Mr Johnson said: “Yes but the difference between us and Russia is that the power is not with me, and that’s the right thing.

“And that, you know, is partly what we’re fighting for.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “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 news coverage of this issue as a priority.”

Ofcom had been told by the Culture Secretary to review the operation of RT, previously known as Russia Today, which she said was “demonstrably part of Russia’s global disinformation campaign”.

In her letter to Ofcom, Nadine Dorries said certain states sought to “exploit and undermine” the UK’s media landscape.

She said RT’s editor-in-chief had “made clear in the past” that the station supported the Kremlin’s aims, by calling the broadcaster an “information weapon” of the Russian state.

In a response, Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes told Ms Dorries the regulator had “already stepped up our oversight of coverage of these events by broadcasters in the UK”.

She said while broadcasters can cover issues from a “particular perspective” as long as balance is achieved, that “it would not be acceptable for any of our licensees to broadcast one-sided propaganda”.

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