Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Censorship: UK bank loses all RT accounts

One thing we used to celebrate about Britain was its “freedom of speech” and its journalism. No longer, it seems. The truth hurts.

UK bank to close RT accounts, 'long live freedom of speech!' – editor-in-chief  

17 November, 2014

The UK bank servicing RT has given notice that it will close the broadcaster’s accounts, without explanation. The UK government has denied any involvement in the bank's decision.

Нам закрыли счета в Британии. Все счета. 'Решение пересмотру не подлежит'. Да здравствует свобода слова!

They closed our accounts in Britain. All of them. ‘Decision not to be discussed’. Long live freedom of speech!” RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said on her Twitter account.

She added that RT’s assets were not frozen and can still be withdrawn from the accounts.

The National Westminster Bank has informed RT UK that it will no longer have the broadcaster among its clients. The bank provided no explanation for the decision.

We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities,” NatWest said in a letter to RT’s London office.

UK move on RT 'part of EU policy of harassment against Russia-linked organizations' (Op-Edge)

The bank said that the entire Royal Bank of Scotland Group, of which NatWest is part, would refuse to service RT.

The letter said the decision was final and that it is “not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it.”
The RT press office pointed out that NatWest is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which counts the UK government as a significant shareholder.

This decision is incomprehensible, and without warning. It is however, not at odds with the countless measures that have been undertaken in the UK and Europe over the last few years to ostracize, shout down, or downright impede the work of RT. RT UK will continue its operations uninterrupted,” RT press office stated.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s office has denied any involvement in NatWest’s decision.

"It's a matter for the bank and it's for them to decide who they offer services to based on their own risk appetite," May's spokeswoman told reporters, as cited by Reuters.

We have no idea why it happened, because neither yesterday nor the day before yesterday, nor a month ago, nothing special happened to us, nobody threatened us in any way. Hypothetically, this may have something to do with new British and American sanctions against Russia, which may be announced soon. It may not. Our legal department is dealing with the issue now,” Margarita Simonyan told RBK business news website.

In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its “deep concern” over the bank's move and said that it would ask British authorities “to clarify the situation.”

The bank’s move creates “formidable obstacles for the normal work of the [RT] channel in the UK,” the ministry said, adding that it raises suspicions that it was “an action aimed at eliminating a media outlet, which was unfavorable for the British establishment but popular among the British public.”

If so, then it is a gross violation of the basic principles of free speech and free press by… ‘the oldest democracy in the world’,” the ministry statement added.

The bank’s move concerning RT UK is unprecedented, cynical pressure on the media, Sergey Zheleznyak, member of the Russian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

We will demand explanations from the British authorities for this situation. We will help RT staff to protect their rights. We will request that international organizations like the Council of Europe and the UN, as well as international human rights and media professionals communities state their positions on this issue,” he said.

I sincerely hope that there’s no political motive for this, because we know that the British government isn’t happy with RT in Britain,” publisher Marcus Papadopoulos told RT.

RT has a lot of viewers in Britain. Many British people now tune in to RT to receive information on major topics around the world, including in Britain. And many British people believe that the alternative accounts that RT puts forward and covers are more truthful than what they’re hearing from, for example, Sky News.

If no bank in Britain would allow RT to be a customer, then that could spell the end of RT broadcasting in Britain, which would be a catastrophic event for freedom of speech in Britain,” he dded.

It seems more than a coincidence that this has taken place at a time when the anti-Russian propaganda has been ramped up to unprecedented levels,” writer John Wight told RT. “This reflects the extent to which the West is losing the information war. RT plays a key role in challenging the narrative of the West and Western media when it comes to events in Ukraine, Syria and the Middle East.”

The British government indeed considers RT to be a major security threat, according to a report it gave to the parliament in September. The cabinet’s plan to counter it, as stated to MPs, is to encourage “greater alignment between policy and communications divisions” of NATO structures as well as pumping more money into BBC World Service.

‘It’s a shame truth is being sacrificed’ – Oliver Stone on RT UK’s bank account closure

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) appears to have backtracked from its earlier statement that the looming closure of RT accounts is not up for discussion. In a letter to RT, the bank said the situation is being reviewed and the bank is contacting the customer.

The e-mailed response began with apologies for the delay in the reply. 

These decisions are not taken lightly. We are reviewing the situation and are contacting the customer to discuss this further. The bank accounts remain open and are still operative,” Sarah Hinton-Smith, Head of Corporate & Institutional, Commercial & Private Media at RBS Communications, wrote. 

However, the response by Hinton-Smith contradicted an earlier statement by RBS Group, which said that the decision to suspend banking services to RT was final and not up for discussion. 

The broadcaster addressed the Royal Bank of Scotland representative over the contradiction, pointing out that “your statement seems to suggest that the bank will contact RT and that there will be a review and further discussion.”

There’s not much more of a steer I can give other than what is in the statement,” Hinton-Smith replied via email. 

Earlier Monday, the National Westminster Bank (NatWest), which is part of RBS Group, informed RT UK’s office in London that it will no longer have the broadcaster among its customers, without providing any explanation for the decision.

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group has the UK government as a significant shareholder, but UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s office has denied any involvement by the British state in the matter.

RBS’s decision to close the RT accounts didn’t go unnoticed, with Russia's Foreign Ministry demanding an explanation from London over the decision.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it was monitoring the situation around RT UK’s bank accounts.

Various groups involved in protection of freedom of speech have expressed their support for the broadcaster.

UK-based advocacy group Christian Voice (CV) stressed that fact that the Royal Bank of Scotland “announced a review (of the closure of RT accounts)… was a big climbdown from the 70% UK-Government-owned outfit.”

RT is a valuable alternative source of information which often rings more true than the established channels with their constant video clips of Boris calling for protests outside the Russian Embassy and US officials blustering about the Russian Federation and President Assad. It would be good for NatWest to withdraw their Turkish-style attack on freedom of expression and for RT to continue to embarrass Boris Johnson and his mandarins,” Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, said in a press release.

An online petition was launched at Care2 website demanding the NetWest bank reinstate RT UK’s accounts.

One longtime NetWest customer contacted RT and said that he closed his account with the bank in protest at the way it had treated RT.

Cancellation of RT UK’s bank account ‘crude British state propaganda’ – Galloway (VIDEO)

Former MP George Galloway has waded into the row over the cancellation of RT UK’s bank accounts by NatWest, dubbing the move “crude British state propaganda.”

The politician and establishment critic commented that the decision by the bank, of which the British state is a significant shareholder, to close all of the broadcaster’s accounts was “shocking but not surprising.”

It comes at a time when it’s been obvious in parliament and in the ‘deep state’ that there is a state of anxiety over the influence and popularity of RT in the country,” Galloway told RT International. “This coincides with a simultaneous fall in the credibility of the British state broadcaster the BBC.”

It’s just crude British state propaganda. They’ve been nervous about RT for some time,” he added.

UK bank to close RT accounts, 'long live freedom of speech!' – editor-in-chief
According to Galloway, the bank is unlikely to give RT any explanation for the decision, since it is largely owned by the British government.

NatWest is part of the Royal Bank Scotland Group, which was saved from bankruptcy by British state injections of up to £37 billion ($64 billion). The recapitalization worked out to the equivalent of £617 ($752) per British taxpayer.

It flows from the discussions from the last few weeks, about intensifying the sanctions against Syria and Russia,” Galloway said. “It does pose the question: what does Russia do vis-a-vis the BBC, the British state broadcaster. Are there grounds for retaliatory measures against the BBC in Moscow and in Russia? I would have thought yes.”

Downing Street has denied any involvement of the government in the NatWest decision.

It's a matter for the bank and it's for them to decide who they offer services to, based on their own risk appetite,” spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters, as cited by Reuters.

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