Response by Head of UK Delegation to OSCE to the Russian Federation:
I should like to respond briefly to points made by the distinguished Russian representative.
I am glad that the Russian Federation has raised at the Permanent Council the issue of media freedom. This is a subject very dear to the UK as well as to many other states represented around this table.
On the specific question regarding banking arrangements between Natwest bank and RT, I am happy to put on record that – contrary to assertions made by the Russian authorities - the UK Government has had no involvement whatsoever in this matter. It is a matter between the bank and its customer and we find it deeply puzzling that the Russian Government having misunderstood or misrepresented the facts continues to draw attention to this.
I should add that we have received no expression of concern from the Representative on the Freedom of the Media.
My Chairman, on a more general note, I would like to address my distinguished Russian colleague’s unfounded criticism of media freedom in the UK.
Free speech, as most of us seated here today well understand, is a central and longstanding pillar of British democracy. We have a pluralist and robust media landscape. I understand that the organisation Reporters without Borders currently ranks the UK 38th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom and Russia 148th.
As the saying goes: люди, живущие в стеклянных домах, не должны кидаться камнями. (“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”)
The growing pressures upon independent media in Russia have been raised many times in OSCE fora by the member states of the EU and by others. Independent news outlets have been either brought under state control or regulated out of existence.
The distinguished Russian representative suggested that Russia Today was operating under pressure in a number of countries and that this represented a violation of freedom of expression. Mr Chairman, I am happy to make clear that the UK allows foreign-owned media channels to operate freely. Even where – as in the case of RT - our independent UK media regulator Ofcom has been forced to take action as a result of inaccurate and misleading reporting, the UK’s commitment to freedom of speech and a robust, diverse media landscape allows the channel to continue broadcasting.
Mr Chairman, I need hardly add that it is nonsense to suggest, as the Russian Embassy in London recently did, that Russian media in the UK are operating under unbearable conditions.