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Jeremy Hunt brands Russia Today a 'weapon of disinformation' for Vladimir Putin

2 min read

State-owned Russian television channel RT is a "weapon of disinformation", Jeremy Hunt will declare today.

In a hard-hitting speech, the Foreign Secretary will take aim at the Kremlin-backed station, accusing it of peddling myths in the wake of last year's Salisbury poisonings.

And he will urge viewers to make the switch to "independent, trusted news outlets" instead, according to extracts reported by The Guardian.

Mr Hunt will tell an audience in Ethiopia: "Channels like RT – better known as Russia Today - want their viewers to believe that truth is relative and the facts will always fit the Kremlin’s official narrative.

"Russia in the last decade very disappointingly seemed to have embarked on a foreign policy where their principal aim is to sow confusion and division and destabilise fragile democracies."

UK regulator Ofcom in December ruled that the RT news channel broke broadcasting rules "by failing to preserve due impartiality in seven news and current affairs programmes over a six-week period".

The regulator - which is independent of government - said RT had been responsible for "a serious failure of compliance with our broadcasting rules".

Hitting back, RT said Ofcom had "breached a key right of broadcasters, and more importantly of audiences" to be exposed to "alternative viewpoints".

But Mr Hunt will say today: "After the Russian state carried out a chemical attack in the British city of Salisbury last year, the Kremlin came up with over 40 separate narratives to explain that incident.

"Their weapons of disinformation tried to broadcast them to the world. The best defence against those who deliberately sow lies are independent, trusted news outlets."

Ofcom is currently considering fining the regulator or revoking its license, but The Guardian reports that Mr Hunt will steer clear of intervening in that process with his speech.

Theresa May last year warned that MPs who appear on the Moscow-backed Russia Today channel run the risk of "being used as propaganda tools by the Russian state".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously appeared on the channel, as have a number of Conservative MPs.

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has also drawn strong criticism for hosting a chat show on the station.

The latest spat comes amid a low point in the UK's relations with Moscow following the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skrila and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury last year.

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