“Attack on media freedom”
BBC journalist should leave Russia

The Kremlin radio channel RTV in London was forced to pay a heavy fine due to “one-sided” reports. In response, Moscow did not issue a visa to the BBC correspondent – the journalist must leave the country by the end of the month.

The BBC strongly condemned the expulsion of one of its correspondents from Russia. The BBC’s director general, Tim Davey, said: “The expulsion of Sarah Rainford is a direct attack on media freedom.” And the Russian state television had reported earlier that the journalist had until the end of August to leave the country. The expulsion was in response to British policy toward Moscow. Davey said Rainford was “an exceptional and brave journalist.” It has provided “independent and carefully considered reports on Russia and the former Soviet Union”.

Russia 24 TV channel, without a source, reported that the British journalist’s visa expired on August 31, and will not be extended by order of the authorities. “The expulsion marks an important turning point,” a journalist for the news channel commented. This measure comes in line with the pressure exerted on the Russian media in Great Britain.

Response to punishment in London

In 2019, BBC Ofcom fined Kremlin broadcaster RT 200,000 pounds (about 235,000 euros) for its serious “bias” in reporting on the toxic attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018 in Salisbury, United Kingdom, and the conflict in Syria. In return, the Russian Broadcasting Corporation launched an investigation into the BBC’s coverage of the conflict in Syria.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Sakharov, only indirectly confirmed the state TV report about the expulsion of the British journalist. “Representatives of the BBC recently went to the Foreign Office, and everything was explained, so that they could tell everything,” she said in the Telegram messenger service. “Don’t be shy,” she told the BBC. The ministry spokeswoman said that Russia had in the past in vain condemned the “insults” inflicted by London on Russian correspondents in Great Britain when issuing visas.

Russian authorities openly criticize Western reports on Russia and regularly condemn articles or reports as anti-Russian. However, expulsions of journalists are rare. This year, the authorities have stepped up their crackdown on Russian media, NGOs, and political organizations over alleged hostility to the government and allegations of financing or serving the interests of the West.

Diplomatic relations between Great Britain and Russia have been extremely strained since 2006, when former Russian agent and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko died in exile in London after being poisoned with highly radioactive polonium. London blames Moscow, which denies any responsibility.

London responded to the attempted assassination of Skripal using the neurotoxin Novichok in Great Britain by expelling 23 Russian diplomats, and Moscow followed suit.

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