NEW YORK, July 10. /TASS/. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) does not view as an 'appropriate response' London’s decision to exclude Russia’s Sputnik news agency and RT TV channel from covering an international conference on media freedom in London, the organization’s Executive Director Joel Simon said.
In an open letter to UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt, published by CPJ on its website, Simon expressed his concern at the UK government's decision "to deny accreditation to the Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik to cover the global conference on media freedom taking place in London this week based on ‘their active role in spreading disinformation.’"
"As you know, the Committee to Protect Journalists defends the rights of journalists around the world to report the news and has been actively involved in supporting the conference which gets underway tomorrow [on Wednesday]," he said.
He said his committee was aware of the UK government’s criticism of those media outlets, but "we do not believe excluding them from covering the conference is an appropriate response."
"To the contrary, for the British government to deny access to RT and Sputnik, or any other news outlet, based on its determination that they constitute propaganda actually empowers autocratic governments around the world who use a similar rationale to justify repression of critical journalism," Simon said.
By denying RT and Sputnik accreditation, the UK government "risks undermining the very principles of free expression that the conference was intended to promote," he added.
"We urge you to reconsider your decision," the letter reads.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a response, published on the diplomatic agency’s official website on Tuesday, that Moscow was demanding the United Kingdom to provide specific facts proving the claims against RT and Sputnik within 24 hours.
The Global Conference for Media Freedom is held in the British capital on July 10-11. It will be hosted by the heads of British and Canadian foreign agencies, Jeremy Hunt and Chrystia Freeland. The forum will particularly discuss such topics as protection of journalists’ rights, prosecution of people committing crimes against media representatives and countering fake news.