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 Russian state-run TV channel faces seven probes over 'fantasies' around nerve agent attack in Salisbury

RT, the Kremlin-backed news channel that broadcasts in the UK, is facing seven new investigations after the broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, said that it had seen a significant rise in potentially problematic material since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

As reported by Censor.NET citing The Guardian, Ofcom said it had monitored RT intensively since the news became public and was now examining a number of instances in which the channel potentially breached broadcast laws on impartiality.

It said that not all cases necessarily related to the Salisbury attack.

The UK broadcast regulator repeated that it could ultimately revoke the channel’s licence to operate in the UK following the conclusion of its investigation, forcing the channel off air.

"Since the events in Salisbury, we have observed a significant increase in the number of programmes broadcast that we consider warrant investigation as potential breaches of the broadcasting code," said the regulator, which promised to publish its conclusion as soon as possible.

"Ultimately, we may decide that the licence should be revoked because the licensee is not fit and proper, on broadcasting compliance grounds."

British intelligence officials have concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the Salisbury attack, prompting dozens of countries to expel Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK. Moscow has strongly denied any involvement and has repeatedly disputed the British version of events.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack there were calls from MPs for RT, originally known as Russia Today, to be taken off air. Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, called it a hostile agent carrying out information warfare, and the former Labour minister Chris Bryant asked: "Can we just stop Russia Today broadcasting its propaganda in this country?"

RT accused its critics of treating it as a political pawn. It said at the time: "In one fell swoop they are doing away with any concept of press freedom in the UK".

Ofcom said it considered the channel’s operator, TV Novosti, to be ultimately controlled by the Russian government and would take that into account when deciding whether the company was considered fit and proper to hold a UK broadcasting licence. It said it wanted any decision to be based on the news channel’s broadcasting output rather than ruling on who attempted to poison the Skripals.

RT has been found guilty of 15 breaches of the Ofcom code since 2012, which the British regulator says is not an unusually high number for a news channel. Most of the breaches related to a lack of impartiality regarding coverage of Russian foreign policy, especially the wars in Syria and Ukraine.

The channel has delighted in attacks on its impartiality, repurposing official criticism as evidence of its outsider status and claiming that the UK government is trying to shut down a dissenting voice. Last year it spent hundreds of thousands on advertising campaigns that ran on London’s public transport network. The posters mocked suggestions that Russia intervened in western elections and suggested viewers should watch RT to "find out who we are planning to hack next".

RT’s willingness to give a platform to figures ignored by larger mainstream news channels has made it a favoured home for political figures who struggle to get a hearing elsewhere. The former SNP leader Alex Salmond hosts a show on the network, and Nigel Farage has been a regular guest.

Following the Salisbury poisoning, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, said it was no longer appropriate for Labour MPs to appear on the network, because "what we’re seeing from Russia Today at times goes beyond objective journalism".

The channel’s UK audience remains relatively small, reaching just 1% of British adults a week, according to Barb viewing figures. It does, however, have a substantial online following.

A spokesperson for RT said: "We are pleased to see that Ofcom has acknowledged RT’s compliance record has been in line with other broadcasters – putting to bed any of the salacious political statements and challenges made against our channel. Our editorial approach has not changed since the events in Salisbury, and we will be directly addressing this matter with the regulator."

As reported, Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital, after they were found unconscious on a bench in the Wiltshire city on March 4. The UK government says they were poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia called Novichok and PM Theresa May said she believed Moscow was "culpable."

UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats as part of a "full and robust" response – prompting Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to say it will "certainly" expel British diplomats in response.

On March 16, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had "no reason to doubt the findings and assessments by the British government" which suggested Russian responsibility. He said the "UK is not alone" and Nato allies gave "strong political support" to Britain, following a joint statement from the US, France and Germany backing Mrs May's government and a pledge of support from Australia.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said that the U.K.'s government believes that it was likely Putin's decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K.

On March 26, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States, including 12 people identified as Russian intelligence officers who have been stationed at the United Nations in New York.

Read more: Russian ambassador to UN believes Skripal case impacted Russia's role in international arena, questioned country's legitimacy

BBC reported on April 12, that the 33-year-old Yulia left Salisbury District Hospital on Monday and has been taken to a secure location.

Источник: https://en.censor.net.ua/n3062001
 
 
 
 
 
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