On the 9th of May, Holyrood's Cross-Party Group on Russia is discussing the "weaponization" of information by the "Kremlin propaganda machine," and its consequences for Scotland. In an aptly named debate "Loaded Words," MSPs are trying to find out why Sputnik News, a "major Russian propaganda agency" as they call it, has chosen Edinburgh as its base.
Of course, the easiest and quickest way of finding this out would be to ask Sputnik News. But we were not invited. Moreover, our request to be allowed to attend the debate — if not as panelists, then at least as members of the audience — was "unsuccessful on this occasion," as the convener's reply said.
Which is a pity, since we sit only a stone's throw away from Holyrood and would love to meet MSPs face to face — just as we enjoyed our audience with MPs at Westminster last December. They were also wondering why on earth Sputnik had chosen Edinburgh over London, as if Edinburgh was a godforsaken hole in the middle of nowhere.
The answer is straightforward: Sputnik invests in quality journalism instead of an overpriced London property market. This answer was provided by Sputnik News to Scottish media at the start of our work in Edinburgh nine months ago.
Apparently MSPs have missed these developments. Maybe they were too busy charting plans for another referendum on Scottish independence… Pity again, as Sputnik could have helped. Is it not its mission to tear Scotland away from the United Kingdom as the British press and politicians would like the Great British public to believe?
Now that Sputnik News sits in Edinburgh, MSPs have a chance of getting a more balanced coverage of their policies. But it looks like they are not really interested in balance.
Judging by the flyer about the debate, they have already decided that "the Kremlin controlled media originate transmit and promote its favoured narratives directed at international audiences."
Which brings us back to the question: how do they know without putting us under scrutiny? Having been "unsuccessful" in obtaining an invitation to the Holyrood discussion, John Wight, host of Sputnik News weekly radio show "Hard Facts," offered MSPs to come and debate the issue on his show.
As a Scottish citizen and journalist, who has appeared in the Guardian and Independent, as well as BBC Radio Scotland, and now works closely with Sputnik News and RT, John has written to the organizers, protesting this "offensive and entirely false rendering of the work that I and other journalists at Sputnik in Edinburgh produce."
In contrast to MSPs treatment of Sputnik, we have always sought the views of a wide cross-section of the political and public landscape in Scotland and beyond.
Having dragged their feet for three weeks in giving us an answer as to why Sputnik had not been invited to a discussion about itself, the Cross-Party Group Russia came up with this bland, and rather unhelpful, reply:
"Attendance at the event is by invitation only for members of the cross-party group and others."
Well, that's exactly why we have been asking to be invited to the discussion about our work. And it was in the Holyrood's gift to grant such an invitation. But the Cross-Party Group which is supposed to have a holistic view of Russia has satisfied itself with inviting "others" — the decidedly nefarious anti-Russian bodies, like the Atlantic Council and the East Stratcom Task Force.
It's not that we object to these organizations expressing their views. But the democratic values as freedom of speech, balance, even handedness and the right to a fair hearing without discrimination proclaimed by British politicians suggest that Sputnik should be given an equal opportunity to state its case and reply to all allegations.
On this occasion, MSPs efforts to present themselves as champions of free speech have been unsuccessful.