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Barclays' freeze of RT bank account casts doubt on UK "freedom of press"

Barclays, which has frozen the bank account of Russia Today (RT)'s London office, refused to give an open explanation over its decision, triggering suspicions that the UK authorities are flaunting "freedom of press" through financial means.

The Russian Embassy in London announced Monday that the bank account of RT's London office was closed by British bank Barclays on July 8 without giving any notice or explanation.

Expressing concerns over the move, the embassy said in a statement: "The Russian side has demanded that British authorities provide explanations...We expect a prompt answer from the British side and will be raising the issue with Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

RT's head Dmitry Kiselyov has been put on an "anti-Russian sanctions list" by British financial department, which could have led to the agency's account being frozen, RT said in a report.

"For us, it's difficult to understand. We didn't receive any explanations, and we are really concerned," said Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko, Russia's ambassador to Britain.

When contacted by Xinhua for clarification on Thursday, Barclays' press office and a public relations manager both replied that they do not comment on individual clients' accounts.

"I can't comment on what may or may not happen. All I can say is that we don't comment on individual customers' accounts," said Tom Sullivan, media relations manager of corporate banking at Barclays.

When asked whether Barclays will provide a statement or an explanation over the issue in the future, Sullivan repeated: "I really can't comment, I am afraid."

Barclays' lack of explanation over the bank account freeze has triggered suspicions that the bank might be acting as an accessory to British "censorship" over London based international media that challenge western-dominated portrayal of world affairs.

"Basically, the international media here in London doesn't feel comfortable and London is becoming more and more unpredictable for them," Yakovenko said.

The Russian ambassador noted that the information provided by RT had an "alternative point of view" on many international events.

The closure of RT's bank account by Barclays without explanations is "an example of censorship against alternative media," the ambassador tweeted.

Last year, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) also criticized British government interference in the editorial independence of some British media, calling for stronger support for public interest journalism in Britain.

[Source: Xinhua, London, 16Jul15]

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