Luke Harding: What’s Being Said


The Luke Harding story is all over the papers today, with various sources discussing the possible reasons for his deportation from Russia.  Here’s a summary of what’s being said.  
British Government Response:
In a video posted by the BBC, British Foreign Office Minister David Lidington says that the British government ‘deplores‘ Harding’s treatment, said that Lavrov’s initial response was that he didn’t know why Harding had been deported, and insisted that Harding was fully accredited as a journalist.  He also makes reference to ‘human rights‘ and ‘media freedom‘.  
The Guardian: Following a threat that the British government would revoke an invitation to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is due to visit next week, the Russian Foreign Ministry insisted that Harding would be able to return to Russia ‘subject to resolving issues related to his media accreditation’.

The Foreign Ministry Line:
As to the question of why Harding was barred in the first place, the New York Times picks up the line on media accreditation.  Apparently: ‘even though Mr. Harding had a formal journalist’s visa in his passport that had recently been issued, he was not allowed into Russia because he had neglected to pick up a press card from officials that showed he was accredited.‘  A quoted statement from the Guardian does not deny this, but says that ‘Failure to collect his press card before leaving urgently on a trip to London is manifestly not a plausible reason for detaining Luke at the airport‘. 
Bloomberg appears to get closer to the heart of the matter, quoting Sergei Lavrov’s comments that ‘Luke Harding “repeatedly” traveled to parts of Russia where counter-terrorism operations were under way without notifying security services […and] also had multiple violations of immigration rules‘. 
RIA Novosti quotes Lavrov as saying that Harding ‘violated a number of rules governing the work of foreign correspondents, which were approved by the Russian government in 1994 and which all journalists are very familiar with‘.  
The Unofficial Line:
RIA Novosti: ‘Harding has fallen foul of the Russian authorities on a number of occasions, mainly for filing articles claiming Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has a $40 billion offshore account.‘  
Alexei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defense Foundation which follows the treatment of journalists in Russia, suggested that Harding’s deportation ‘is a ritual of political pressure carried out by our most mighty secret services […] It shows all others they are under surveillance and if they think of themselves as being free, the secret services are showing them their place.‘  
The Washington Post draws attention to links between Harding’s reporting and a recent defamation case against opposition politicians Boris Nemtov and Vladimir Milov, who ‘referred to a Harding article in court as part of their defense.