Stop Funding Hate’s policy on RT and Sputnik News

Stop Funding Hate has been approached for comment a number of times by the Russian state-run media outlets RT and Sputnik News.

It’s always been our policy never to engage with these approaches, even though we know other UK organisations do. As a human rights group accountable to our supporters, we wanted to explain why.

We’re against hate and fake news everywhere, not only in the UK

To ensure that we make effective use of our resources, Stop Funding Hate focuses on the three UK newspapers whose coverage has been so extreme that they have been called out by the United Nations.

But we also recognise that media hate and fake news are global problems.

The last few months have seen mounting concern about the role of RT and Sputnik in fuelling hate and divisive conspiracy theories across Europe and the US.

The evidence suggests that RT and Sputnik News are not genuinely independent. Both are funded and controlled by the Russian government. Both are widely seen to be working to advance that government’s objectives, including the global spreading of misinformation.

The truth matters, and there is a meaningful difference between media outlets whose journalism is degraded by perverse financial incentives, and those that reject objectivity entirely.

While we don’t have the resources to challenge every outlet, we think it’s important to avoid lending legitimacy to fake news media where possible.

We support human rights everywhere, not only in the UK

For practical reasons, Stop Funding Hate’s work is limited to challenging media hatred and discrimination in the UK. But from the outset we have been committed to all of the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Amnesty International’s latest report on Russia paints a grim picture, including “a coordinated campaign of abduction, torture and killings” against LGBTI people in Chechnya, “harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders and independent NGOs”, persecution of religious minorities, violations of the right to a fair trial, and “restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly”.

Amnesty accuses the Russian government of a “stranglehold on press freedom”,  suggesting that over the past year “most of the media remained under effective state control and were used by the authorities to smear human rights defenders, political opponents and other dissenting voices”.

Amid growing concern about Russian state activities in the UK and across the world, we want to ensure that Stop Funding Hate does nothing to help normalise – even in a small way – media outlets working on behalf of a government that suppresses dissent at home while spreading misinformation overseas.