13:20 GMT30 October 2020
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    LONDON (Sputnik) - The UK decision to ban Sputnik and RT from the recent Global Conference for Media Freedom is reflective of the fact that Western journalism has become hostage to the "fake news" debate, stigmatising any media outlet whose views differ from its own, President of the Solonian Democracy Institute Roslyn Fuller, has told Sputnik.

    "The entire debate on disinformation and fake news has really dominated the media circuit for years now, where it's become a kind of insider crowd vs outsider crowd situation, where everyone repeats the same things and then reacts to anything that takes a different view or even tries to report on different things as something that equals fake news [and] equals trying to foster dissent and division in society. So yes it is really concerning," Fuller said, commenting on the situation around RT and Sputnik.

    According to Fuller, recent statements by Conservative Party leadership candidates, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, in support of press freedom over the leaked comments made by then-UK ambassador in Washington, Kim Darroch, were similarly of little relevance, given the overall situation around media and the fact that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remained incarcerated in London's high-security Belmarsh prison.

    Darroch resigned last week after the leaked extracts from confidential diplomatic cables were published by the Mail on Sunday in which the diplomat referred to the US President Donald Trump administration as "clumsy and inept." Both Johnson and Hunt have since voiced their support for the media's publishing such materials in contrast to a Metropolitan police statement that warned that similar actions might constitute a "criminal matter."

    "In this case it wasn't a major leak in a certain sense, it was people saying bad things, a diplomat saying bad things, unflattering things about a politician. It wasn't really the news of the century, so I think that's why they've [Hunt and Johnson] come back and said it's not an issue and wouldn't prevent people from publishing that," Fuller argued.

    She noted that the authorities had been demonstrating the opposite approach to the WikiLeaks' case, effectively discouraging people from sharing such information, even though it was far more high-profile case.

    "I would contrast that with WikiLeaks where the reaction has been a lot stronger and the authorities have made more of an effort to discourage people from republishing those links or using them otherwise. But this does show the obsession that's in evidence with disinformation and fake news in the entire western world," Fuller stressed.

    Fuller suggested that the UK government's treatment of Assange and denouncement of Russian media were actually a part of the same processes, with last week's conference not appearing as something that "really seemed to be open to a broad spectrum of opinions."

    "I think a lot more journalists and politicians are now in a bubble where journalism is now viewed as a kind of prestige profession. Therefore I think there's a tendency to kind of behave in the right way, as opposed to digging deep and finding things out what those in power don't want you to find," she opined.

    She added that Assange’s case, which has probably become the "most disruptive thing that's happened in western media over the past ten years or more," had shown the public "what happens to you if you really reveal something important."

    Assange was arrested in London on April 11 after Ecuador revoked his asylum and let the British police enter its embassy in the UK capital. If extradited to the United States, the whistleblower will face up to 175 years in a US jail over espionage charges. On June 13, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that he had signed the US request, with hearings of Assange's extradition case now scheduled for February 2020.

    Despite public backlash around the possible extradition of Assange, whose whistleblowing website published a large number of classified documents exposing US abuses of power and war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, his fate was off the media freedom conference’s official agenda. The whistleblower’s supporters, however, gathered near the conference venue carrying banners in protest of Assange's persecution.

    The UK Foreign Office refused to accredit the two Russian media outlets to the conference, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday, over their "active role in spreading disinformation," without specifying any specific instances of this. In the wake of this move, Russian Foreign Ministry gave London 24 hours to provide specific facts on the basis of which RT and Sputnik had been discriminated, but, failing to receive any reply, warned that it would consider such a refusal to be a propaganda attack on Russian media.

    The views and opinions expressed by Roslyn Fuller are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Wikileaks, Julian Assange, media, ban, RT, Sputnik, U.K
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