Defend Russia Today!

THE RULING class stepped up its attack on press and media freedom this week with the arbitrary decision of a London bank to close all the accounts of a leading Russian international TV station. The National Westminster Bank (NatWest), part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) that is largely owned by the State, told Russia Today (RT) that all its accounts would be closed in December. Scottish nationalist politician Alex Salmond denounced the move as something one might expect from a “tin pot dictatorship, not a liberal democracy”.

It seems any old rubbish can be televised under the guise of entertainment as long as the “news” conforms to guide-lines set by the establishment so ably represented by the BBC. But anything that challenges the bourgeois lie-machine, like Iran’s Press TV or the Russian stations, is dismissed as “propaganda” and “disinformation”.

No reason was given for this arbitrary decision but few doubt that it is part of the imperialist economic offensive against Russia that has thwarted Anglo-American and Franco-German efforts to overthrow the popular front government in Syria.

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said: “They have failed to defeat us by simply vilifying us, by picking on our broadcast, so they decided to try the banking flank: ‘Try broadcasting when all your accounts have been closed.’ Yet we will try.”

Last week the Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, called on the public to protest against the Russian air-offensive in Aleppo — a call dutifully echoed by the bourgeois media we once called “Fleet Street” and the class-collaborators inside and outside the Labour Party who can always be relied on to justify imperialist aggression. In fact only one person responded to the Tory buffoon’s appeal with a solitary two-hour vigil outside the Russian embassy in London.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the decision by a majority-British government-owned bank to stop servicing RT UK’s accounts could not have been taken by the institution independently. But Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokeswoman claimed the decision was taken by the bank “independently” saying: “It is a matter for the bank and it is for them to decide who they offer services to, based on their own risk appetite.”

Others believe that RT’s UK bank accounts being frozen is part of a coordinated EU policy aimed at Russian-linked organisations. John Laughland, Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, pointed out that the British government took over RBS in 2008, at the time of the financial crisis, and still owns approximately 75 per cent of its shares. He believes Monday’s disturbing announcement to be “politically inspired.”

“My suspicion is that it’s part of a coordinated and Europe-wide policy of harassment against organisations of that are associated with Russia,” Laughland said. “We must understand this policy of harassment and hostility within the context of the decision taken about six months ago at a European Union [EU] summit, at which it was decided on the EU-level to combat ‘Russian propaganda and disinformation,’” as it’s being called.

The attempt to harass RT is “an attempt to squeeze out alternative voices. All the big domestic UK channels carry government policy uncritically,” Steve Hedley, Senior Assistant General Secretary of RMT, the UK’s biggest specialised transport union, told RT on-air. “They are attempting to put a warning shot across the bow of not just RT, but any news organisations with a different point of view.

Public protests and a reported Kremlin threat to close all the accounts of the BBC in Russia have now forced NatWest to back-track and the bank now claims to be reviewing the decision. Good.