Theresa May says MPs who appear on Russia Today ‘risk being used as propaganda tools’
MPs who appear on the Moscow-backed Russia Today channel run the risk of “being used as propaganda tools by the Russian state” in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, Theresa May has said.
The Prime Minister told MPs that there were “doubts about the objectivity” of the state-funded station, which has featured guest appearances from a string of MPs including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker, as well as Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond.
RT is currently being probed by broadcast regulator Ofcom over the impartiality of its output after the watchdog said it had “observed a significant increase in the number of programmes… that warrant investigation” following the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Last week the Prime Minister told MPs that UK intelligence services now believe the Russian state was behind that attack, and prosecutors announced that two men travelling on Russian passports had been charged in connection with the poisonings.
Russia has continued to deny involvement.
Responding to a question from Tory MP John Lamont at Prime Minister’s questions today, Mrs May said: “I’m sure we all have doubts about the objectivity of the reporting on Russia Today, which does remain a tool of propaganda for the Russian state.
“Now, decisions about appearing on Russia Today is [sic] a matter of judgement for each individual. But they should be clear that they risk being used as propaganda tools by the Russia state.”
The Prime Minister also pointed out that the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford had urged his MPs not to appear on the broadcaster.
The SNP chief said last week: “What we now know is that the Russian state was implicated in the Salisbury attack.
“I’ve made it clear I don’t think people should broadcast on RT.”
His comments came after criticism of ex-SNP leader Alex Salmond’s regular show on RT.
The former first minister was rapped by Ofcom earlier this year after he read out questions posed by people with connections to the show that had been billed as coming from viewers.
The broadcast regulator said the move breached a key broadcast rule that news shows “must not materially mislead the audience”.
Mrs May also hit out at Press TV, Iran’s state broadcaster, saying that “the same” skeptical treatment should apply to the Tehran-backed news channel following Ofcom’s 2012 decision to revoke its licence to broadcast in the UK.
Labour this week suspended a Press TV journalist and party member who is alleged to have infiltrated a meeting of the Enfield North constituency party and broadcast a vote of no-confidence in pro-Israel MP Joan Ryan.
The party’s deputy leader Tom Watson said of the incident: "This disorder makes a farce of the proceedings and is not how the modern Labour Party should conduct its affairs.”