ARTICLE 19 submitted this alert to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists:
On 17 October 2016, RT UK, a news channel that forms part of the global RT TV news network based in Moscow, published a letter received from British bank NatWest stating that its accounts would be closed following a “review of banking arrangements”. No explanation was given as to how this conclusion was reached. The letter went on to say that the decision was “final” and that NatWest was “not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it.” While such action would not stop RT broadcasting in the UK, it could make it more difficult to run a London bureau, employ staff in Britain and cover events there.
RT have accused the British government of being behind NatWest’s actions. RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said “It’s completely obvious that this is a political decision and a result of the wild pressure on RT in Europe and Britain recently.” The UK Treasury, in response, denied any involvement with the decision. The bank has since said it would review the situation but has declined to provide justification for the initial decision.