Russia bans BBC correspondent for denouncing “press freedom”

BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford will have to leave Russia at the request of the authorities, Russian state television Rossiïa 24 announced Thursday evening August 12, which presents the decision as a “Symbolic expulsion”. Without identifying a source, the channel explained that the British journalist’s visa expired on August 31 and that it would not be renewed.

“Getting kicked out of Russia, where I spent almost a third of my life and where I worked for years, is devastating. Thank you for all your messages of support ”, wrote Sarah Rainsford on Twitter.

It is, according to the television channel, a response to London’s refusal to grant visas to Russian journalists working in the United Kingdom, including those of the RT and Sputnik media.

Not to mention that the Russian authorities continue to publicly criticize the content of Western media on Russia, regularly denouncing articles or reports deemed Russophobic. But expulsions of journalists remain rare.

“The expulsion of Sarah Rainsford [l’un des deux correspondants anglophones de la BBC à Moscou] constitutes a direct attack on the freedom of the press which we unreservedly condemn ”, reacted Friday evening the BBC in a statement. “We call on the Russian authorities to reverse their decision. In the meantime, we will continue to report events in the region independently and impartially ”, added the British group, calling Sarah Rainsford a “Exceptional and intrepid journalist”.

Persecution of Russian Journalists in Britain

For her part, Russian diplomacy spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed the half-word information by wielding sarcasm in a message posted on Telegram.

” Do not be shy, she wrote. Representatives of the BBC recently visited the foreign ministry, everything was explained, so they can tell everything. “ The spokesperson also stressed that Russia had in the past denounced, without effect, the “Humiliations with the visas inflicted by London on Russian correspondents in Great Britain”.

A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow has warned London several times that it will react to what it calls the persecution of Russian journalists in Britain.

“We reject the Russian Foreign Ministry’s allegations of discriminatory action against Russian journalists in the UK”The UK Embassy in Moscow responded in a statement, adding that Russian journalists continue to work freely in the UK if they act within the law and regulations. “We urge them to reconsider this retrograde measure against an award-winning BBC journalist, which can only further undermine media freedom in Russia. “

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Multiplication of Russian legal proceedings

Relations between London and Moscow have been particularly strained for years. The British accuse Moscow of having used radioactive and chemical poisons to attack Russian opponents of Vladimir Putin who have taken refuge in the United Kingdom.

On August 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry had already declared unidentified British nationals personae non gratae “Engaged in anti-Russian activities”. This measure was presented as a response to the ban of Russians from the territory of the United Kingdom as part of British sanctions taken in 2020 and 2021.

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The Russian authorities have also increased this year legal proceedings against Russian media, NGOs and political organizations deemed hostile to power and accused of being financed or of serving the interests of the West.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters