Russia Today and the censorship of disinformation

This week there has been a clamour from parliamentarians and political activists for the UK Government to shut down ‘Russia Today’ (RT) – an English language television channel funded by the Russian government. The calls have been made because the channel effectively acts as a mouthpiece for Putin’s regime – much like ‘Pravda’ was for the Soviet Union.

It is almost farcical as it is so obviously stuffed with pro-Putin propaganda. When you watch it you can be in no doubt that much of their content is nonsensical at best and rather sinister at worst.

We also know that the spreading of disinformation has been a key part of Russian doctrine for many years now – going by the name of dezinformatsiya. This approach has been apparent in the run up to the invasion of Ukraine as well as during the course of it – with ludicrous statements that the Ukrainian Government is made up of drug-taking Nazis, and not even accepting that the Russians had incurred any casualties a few days ago. The semantics are important too. What the world can see is that a brutal unprovoked invasion is being described merely as a ‘special military operation’.

The links between the Russian state and outlets such as RT are very clear, and we should not be afraid to call out their lies and untruths.

Nevertheless, I would be uncomfortable with censorship and banning the channel. Unlike Russia, we are an open and free democracy in which information can and should be freely shared. It is our duty as a society to challenge and defeat disinformation, not to expurgate it from existence. I am not aware of any great number of Britons being persuaded to join a fifth column by Russia Today. What it does do is provide us with an insight into what Putin wants to be said. This is ultimately how we win the battle of ideas and it seems to me that we should not strive to defend democracy through censorship.

We have so many sources of quality news and information and I have confidence in the common sense of my constituents and the country. In all honesty I don’t think anyone of sound mind would be daft enough to believe most of the tripe on RT, but it does offer an insight into the mind of a dictator.