Call for Sputnik Ofcom review as chamber pressured to cut ties

A FORMER city council leader has joined calls for a controversial news service to be expelled from Edinburgh's Chamber of Commerce over allegations it is a 'propaganda machine' for the Russian state.

Thursday, 15th March 2018, 6:00 am
Sputnik UK has been operating out of the Exchange Tower in Edinburgh's West End for two years

Sputnik, the multimedia arm of Rossiya Segodnya, known as Russia Today, was recently admitted as a member of the organisation.

However, the move has been branded “disappointing” by former council chief Donald Anderson, who called for their association with the body to be revoked in the wake of the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

It came after Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-­Hamilton filed a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for an industry-wide review of broadcast licences granted to state-owned news networks.

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Sputnik UK has been operating out of the Exchange Tower in Edinburgh’s West End for two years.

The Evening News attempted to contact the ­Russian consulate in Edinburgh yesterday, however 
they refused to comment and hung up.

Mr Anderson, who led the city for seven years between 1999 and 2006, said: “The Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce are an organisation set up to promote our society and our democracy, so it is really disappointing to see them give membership to an organisation which is effectively a propaganda machine for the Russian state.

“Of course as a city we want to strengthen the ties between ourselves and the Russian people and it is understandable that attracting tourism and visitors from Russia to Scotland and from Scotland to Russia is important, but this is a separate issue.”

He added: “I think given the recent tragic events in Salisbury, I can’t see how the chamber can continue to allow Sputnik to be members of the organisation.”

A spokeswoman for the chamber said no further comment would be made at this time.

In February, Mr Cole-Hamilton criticised the connections between Sputnik and the chamber, calling its content “Putin-backed propaganda” and said he wanted regulator Ofcom to investigate their broadcast licences.

He said yesterday: “This was a chemical attack on British soil and hundreds of British citizens could be affected in the weeks and months to come.

“I would urge all groups and individuals in Scottish public life to take a stand by refusing future invitations for interview and to end any commercial relationships with Russian state-backed media outlets immediately.”