An Irishman has been included on the latest list of people facing sanctions imposed by the UK, as part of sanctions targeting major media organisations in Russia announced today.
Journalist Bryan MacDonald, whose place of birth is recorded as Kilkenny in the documents, is listed due to his work for Russian news outlet RT, formerly known as Russia Today.
The sanctions announced today are aimed at people the UK government said are linked to Russian broadcasters and newspapers.
The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans.
The British government has also imposed sanctions on war correspondents embedded with Russian forces in Ukraine. Organisations including a major, state-owned broadcaster, All Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting, will also face sanctions.
On the sanctions list published by the British government, it said: “Brian MCDONALD [sic] is head of Russia desk for the English-language edition of RT (formerly Russia Today).
“RT is owned or controlled by ANO TV-NOVOSTI, which is or has been involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the government of Russia by carrying on business as a government of Russia-affiliated entity and carrying on business in a strategically significant sector to the government of Russia.
“ANO TV-NOVOSTI was designated by the United Kingdom on March 31, 2022.
"Therefore, as an employee of RT, MCDONALD [sic] is a member of, or associated with, a person involved in destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or independence of Ukraine, or obtaining a benefit from or supporting the government of Russia.”
Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, RT has been taken off the airwaves in both the EU and the UK.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, Mr MacDonald said the sanctions imposed “reflects badly on the British Government, which claims to have respect for press freedom”.
“I was never the head of the Russia desk at RT. I was the head of the Russia desk at rt.com(online). That’s totally separate to the television, which they banned (in another misguided decision),” he said.
Mr MacDonald also defended the output of his team at RT, adding: “What makes this ruling even more ridiculous is that I ran the (online) desk to the highest professional standards.
“We did not engage in any disinformation. Our output was balanced and rigorously fact-checked. Under no metric could it have been considered ‘propaganda.’ In fact, this seemed to upset some people as they wanted RT to fit a particular narrative.”
He said that the financial penalties imposed were “beyond hilarious” as he has no money or assets in the UK.
In a tweet after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr MacDonald said he’d gotten it “badly wrong” when it came to his view on whether such events would’ve taken place.
He said tonight: “As for 'getting it wrong.' I’m genuinely sorry about that. I could point to the fact that almost all 'Russia experts' held similar views, but that would be a cheap deflection. I can only speak for my myself, and I absolutely did not believe there would be a full-scale military offensive in Ukraine.”
The Bryan MacDonald listed in today’s sanctions is entirely separate from Brian McDonald, a Galway native who is a former western news correspondent at Independent News and Media, who retired in 2014.
Bryan MacDonald spoke to Mick Clifford last year for, about how the invasion of Afghanistan was being perceived in Russia. Listen back here: