18, October 2016
The British bank National Westminster has decided to close down the accounts of the Russian broadcaster RT without offering any explanation.“They’ve closed our accounts in Britain. All our accounts. ‘The decision is not subject to review.’ Praise be to freedom of speech!” the network’s Editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said in a tweet on Monday.
In a letter to RT’s London office, NatWest announced that it would no longer count the channel as a client, but stopped short of specifying the reason. “We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities,” the bank’s letter read, adding that the entire Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which owns NatWest, will never service RT.
NatWest said the decision was final and that it was “not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it.”Despite the initial statement, Simonyan wrote in tweet on Tuesday that the both parties had agreed to discuss the issue.
She even joked that the bank may simply blame the whole thing on a “computer glitch” and resume its normal business with the network.
No matter the outcome, the RT press office noted that its UK branch “will continue its operations uninterrupted.” NatWest’s decision elicited angry reactions from Russian MPs, the foreign ministry and human rights officials, who unanimously blasted the British government for violating freedom of the press and exercising double standards. “It seems that freedom of speech is completely lost in Albion’s Russophobic fog,” said Konstantin Dolgov, Russia’s foreign ministry commissioner for human rights.
The backlash was so severe that London weighed in on the issue, denying any role in the bank’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,” UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson told reporters.
The UK Treasury also insisted that the decision was made independently by the bank. This is not the first time that a network is being subjected to double policies by the British. In 2012, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, banned Press TV’s broadcast in the UK and removed the channel from the Sky platform.