Ofcom must decide whether Russia Today ‘propaganda’ continues, says Liz Truss

RT broadcasts ‘fake news on a regular basis’, says foreign secretary

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 23 February 2022 09:42 GMT
Liz Truss grilled over Tory donations linked to Russia

Foreign secretary Liz Truss said it is up to regulator Ofcom to decide what kind of content the Russia-backed RT network continues to broadcast in the UK, following calls for a crackdown.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on the government to tackle the “propaganda” put out by the state-controlled channel, formerly known as Russia Today.

Responding, Ms Truss attacked the channel for disseminating “fake news” on behalf of the Kremlin – and suggested that Ofcom should “look” at what it broadcasts.

“I think it’s certainly true that it is spouting propaganda on behalf of the Kremlin. One of the things the Kremlin does is use disinformation to try and sow discord in the West – and Russia Today is clearly part of that,” she told Sky News.

Challenged on what action should be taken, Ms Truss added: “It is an independent decision of Ofcom about licensing broadcasters.”

In more pointed remarks on Times Radio, the foreign secretary said: “I’m of the view Russia Today broadcasts propaganda and fake news on a regular basis, and is effectively an arm of the Russian state, and I’m sure Ofcom is looking at that.”

Ofcom has said that – given the seriousness of events in Ukraine – it was ready to act “as a priority” if concerns were raised about the accuracy or impartiality of any broadcaster.

A spokesperson for the watchdog told The Independent: “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.”

In 2019, Ofcom fined RT £200,000 for its failure to observe “due impartiality” in seven news and current affairs programmes, including its coverage of the war in Syria and the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

Sir Keir told the Commons on Tuesday that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “campaign of misinformation” should be tackled – including moves to prevent RT from “broadcasting its propaganda around the world”.

In response, RT deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina said it was “always a joy to see Western and particularly British politicians finally drop their hypocritical disguise in favour of open interference”.

Meanwhile, Ms Truss refused to rule out imposing sanctions on Conservative donors. She told Sky News: “We are very clear that nothing is off the table, in terms of who we’re targeting … I don’t rule out anything.”

The foreign secretary also said it would be “completely wrong” for Uefa to allow the Champions League final to still be held in Russian city of St Petersburg in June.

Asked on BBC Breakfast if English teams should boycott the event, she said it was a “matter for the teams”, but added that she would not want to be part of the match if she were a player.

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