BOSSES at Russian television news channel RT have begun the latest round of a legal challenge against a watchdog’s decision to censure programmes about the Salisbury poisonings and the conflict in Syria.

Ofcom, which licenses RT to broadcast in the UK, decided that programmes aired after Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in March 2018 breached impartiality rules and imposed a £200,000 fine.

RT bosses, who said the ruling was unfair and not compatible with free speech rights, lost the first round of a fight in the High Court.

Two judges last year dismissed a judicial review claim.

On Tuesday, lawyers representing RT asked three Court of Appeal judges to overturn that ruling.

Master of the Rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos, Lord Justice Baker and Lord Justice Warby are scheduled to consider arguments over two days at a hearing in London.

Ofcom said RT’s appeals should be dismissed.

A barrister leading RT’s legal team told the appeal judges that the regulator had found that seven programmes broadcast in March and April 2018 breached “due impartiality” requirements.

Sam Grodzinski QC said six of the seven programmes related to the poisoning of the Skripals or the conflict in Syria.

He argued that Ofcom’s findings could not be justified as necessary or proportionate.

Mr Grodzinski said the two judges who considered the case in the High Court had “erred” in finding that Ofcom’s decisions did not infringe the right to free speech – enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“At its core, this appeal concerns the extent of the obligation imposed on television broadcasters to maintain ‘due impartiality’ in news and certain other kinds of programmes,” he said in a written case outline given to judges.

“It is a critical feature of Article 10 that it is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that ‘offend, shock or disturb’.”

He said if the “reasoning” of the two judges who considered the case in the High Court was applied generally by Ofcom there was a risk of a “chilling” effect on broadcasters and a “less diverse news supply”.

Get more Salisbury news

You can also like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter and Instagram to stay up to date.

If you want online news with fewer ads, unlimited access and reader rewards - plus a chance to support our local journalism - find out more about registering or a digital subscription.

Email with your comments, pictures, letters and news stories.