The Guardian claims that its Moscow correspondent, Luke Harding, has been expelled from Russia for reporting the Wikileaks scandal. The allegation is a little odd as the issue at hand has been covered extensively in the Russian press.
Nevertheless the newspaper has gone to the rather extraordinary lengths of recruiting the Labour MP Chris Bryant to its cause. He’s demanding that the British government retaliates by refusing to allow the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to make a planned visit to the UK next week. The coalition would be wise to take its counsel elsewhere.
Bryant is practised in the anti-Russia stuff. Most recently he rushed to condemn Mike Hancock for the grievous crime of having a Russian employee with sympathies for her homeland. And he also served as under secretary of state in the foreign office during David Miliband‘s virulently anti-Moscow tenure.
In any case, there are two sides to the story. Ria Novosti reports that the Guardian journalist flouted well known accreditation rules. It quotes Russia’s foreign ministry, which suggests that, should Harding sort out the paperwork, “he will have no problems entering the Russian Federation”.
Whatever the truth surrounding these events, Sublime Oblivion is most exercised by censorship at Comment is Free, the Guardian’s opinion website. In a piece entitled ’some comments are freer than others’ it is alleged that up to 20% of follow up opinions have been removed from a piece about Harding, including all of those which are critical of the newspaper. The blogger includes a synopsis of his own (deleted) contribution.
It's an interesting situation. Harding's work certainly isn't admired in Russia but that doesn't justify denying him entry. No doubt there was some opportunism on the authorities' part. I suppose the acid test will be, will the journalist be permitted to sort out the necessary accreditation and if he does, well he be readmitted to Russia?
If not, it will be fleeting and puzzling score for the Russian government.