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BBC writes to Russia after journalists’ details are published online

  • Personal information of 44 BBC journalists posted in the anonymously run For Mother Russia group on the social network VKontakte
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 3:25am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 3:25am

The BBC has written to Russian authorities to express concern about the safety of its staff in Moscow after it emerged that the details of dozens of the broadcasters’ journalists had been published online in apparent retaliation to the publication in The Sunday Times of eight Edinburgh-based Sputnik reporters’ details.

Its World Service director said the safety of its staff in Moscow was the BBC’s “overriding concern”, and stressed that the broadcaster had always acted “in full compliance” with Russian law.

“The BBC has asked the Russian authorities to investigate this worrying development,” Jamie Angus said. “The welfare and security of our staff in Moscow is our overriding concern. Our long-standing news operations in Moscow are of great value to our audiences in the UK and around the world.

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“We have always operated in Russia in full compliance with the country’s laws and regulations. That is why it is particularly troubling to us that private staff information which we have shared with Russian authorities as part of our lawful operation in Russia has been disclosed in this way,” he added.

The Guardian reported on Thursday that the personal information of 44 BBC journalists was posted in the anonymously run For Mother Russia group on the social network VKontakte.

It was then reprinted by a rightwing Russian news website accompanied by photos of the journalists. The origin of the leak remains unclear, although the information appears to have come from official documents since the list only includes BBC employees accredited with the Russian government.

The journalists, most of whom are Russian citizens, are identified by their legal names, which in some cases differ from their bylines.

It occurred in apparent retaliation to the publication in The S unday Times of names and photographs of eight reporters working for the Kremlin-backed Sputnik in Edinburgh.

Russian officials condemned the newspaper’s report, saying it put the journalists in danger amid claims that it was an attempt to exert “psychological pressure”.

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It comes a week after Russia said it would launch an investigation into the BBC for violating fairness standards.

Kremlin officials said the investigation was a response to an Ofcom ruling that the state-backed RT violated impartiality rules in the aftermath of the Salisbury poisoning incident, risking “statutory sanctions” including fines or a loss of licence.

A BBC Panorama investigation detailed how Russia employs surveillance methods and propaganda to discredit Putin critics. John Sweeney, a respected BBC journalist, was repeatedly harassed when he visited Russia to film the report.

The BBC World Service has significantly expanded its operations in Russia in the past two years.