The two-day conference kicked off in the UK capital earlier on Wednesday. The Foreign Office had denied the two Russian media accreditation to the event over their "active role in spreading disinformation." When asked to provide specific examples of alleged disinformation, the Foreign Office referred Sputnik to UK media watchdog Ofcom, which earlier claimed that RT "broke broadcasting rules by failing to preserve due impartiality" in several episodes.
During a Wednesday discussion, employees of BBC Monitoring, among other things, claimed that RT and Sputnik had allegedly attempted to influence the recent EU parliamentary elections. The media outlets, according to the broadcaster, discouraged voters from going to the polls, which was purportedly meant to play into the Kremlin’s hands.
When asked about what could be done to counter "disinformation" and Russia’s "meddling", BBC Monitoring’s Russia and disinformation specialist Olga Robinson said that media should tell the audience about facts, be responsible in its broadcasts, verify information and develop critical thinking.
Her BBC colleague, Shayan Sardarizadeh, echoed the sentiment, arguing that the BBC provided its audience only with facts.
This is not the first time this year when the UK broadcaster has made headlines. In February, BBC Syria Producer Riam Dalati announced that he could "prove without a doubt" that the infamous April 2018 Duma hospital footage — which triggered a powerful anti-Damascus information campaign in mainstream media and was used as a pretext for a US-led missile strike on the Arab republic — had been staged and that there were no fatalities in the hospital. He said the attack did take place but without the use of sarin gas, noting that the nature of any chemical used would have to be verified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The journalist’s statement came as quite a surprise for the mainstream media despite the fact that Hassan Diab, a boy featured in the video, previously told a Russian media outlet in an interview, alongside his father, how the footage of people being treated in the hospital was filmed. Diab said, among other things, that children had been given food for participating in the filming.
The Global Conference for Media Freedom participants chose to not raise this particular issue in their discussions.