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February 25, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:05am

Reporters quit RT and website hacked by Anonymous over Ukraine invasion coverage

By Andrew Kersley

Opposition to coverage of Russia’s Ukraine invasion at Kremlin-funded RT has seen reporters quit and the website hacked, as MPs called on Ofcom to ban the outlet.

RT, previously called Russia Today, is owned and funded by the Russian government and has been repeatedly accused of being a mouthpiece for the country’s authoritarian regime.

The station has been accused of parroting  Kremlin propaganda in its coverage of the conflict

[UPDATE: Ofcom opens 15 new ‘due impartiality’ investigations into RT over Sunday programming]

Commenting on RT’s future, an Ofcom spokesperson said: “We will of course consider all evidence around coverage of the events in Ukraine in assessing compliance with the Broadcasting Code.”

Press Gazette understands Ofcom had received 30 complaints about RT in the week up to Tuesday, and there had been more since.

On Thursday, two RT journalists Jonny Tickle and Shadia Edwards-Dashti left their jobs at the broadcaster, though only the former made clear he was resigning in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tickle said on Twitter “recent events” forced him to resign from RT “with immediate effect”.

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Since then, several more journalists have resigned from the service including presenter Danny Armstrong, producer Ross Field and French host Frédéric Taddeï, who said he had quit the show he presented out of “loyalty to France”.

Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he would stop making his show on RT “until peace is re-established”.

Former MP George Galloway, who has presented a programme on the channel since 2013, issued a statement saying that the invasion was “not what I wanted to see in Ukraine” but blamed it on “pumping Ukraine full of NATO weapons”.

The news comes as the EU announced plans to ban RT as well as another state-owned channel, Sputnik. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the move would stop the Russian government from being able to “spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union”.

RT has also been the subject of intense criticism by UK politicians, with Labour leader Keir Starmer calling for its licence to be revoked after telling the Commons that RT was Putin’s “personal propaganda tool”.

In a letter to Ofcom, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries asked the regulator to review RT’s ability to broadcast in the UK as the outlet was “demonstrably part of Russia’s global disinformation campaign”.

She added: “While respecting Ofcom’s regulatory independence, I call on you to ensure your actions are timely and transparent to reassure the British public.”

Others have expressed concerns that removing the site from the UK could risk Russia banning access to the BBC’s Russian services, mirroring what the country did to German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle when Germany’s media regulator took RT off air.

For a period on Friday, the RT website was reportedly inaccessible after being the victims of a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack by hacktavist group Anonymous, which said it had entered into a “cyber war” with the Russian government.

The group posted on Twitter: “The Anonymous collective has taken down the website of the Russian propaganda station RT News.”

RT was previously fined £200,000 by Ofcom for biased coverage of the Salisbury poisoning and the war in Syria. Despite appealing to the Court of Appeal and High Court, the fine against the state broadcaster was upheld.

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