NatWest freezes Press TV bank account

By Jennifer Lipman, January 27, 2011
Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone

One of Britain's biggest clearing banks, NatWest, has confirmed that it has frozen the British account of the Iranian state-backed news channel Press TV.

Launched in 2007, the channel has been the subject of worldwide controversy for its coverage of stories including the stoning sentence of the Iranian Sakineh Ashtiani Mohammed.

Last month Press TV broadcast a re-enactment of the alleged murder of her husband.

A NatWest spokesman said: "All customer relationships are subject to ongoing reviews, which take a range of factors into account and which may result in us deciding to stop providing banking facilities to a customer."

The channel has also been rapped by standards watchdog Ofcom for comments made by presenters including the extreme pro-Palestinian campaigner Lauren Booth, and former Respect MP George Galloway.

Another of its presenters, Ken Livingstone, is to give up his spot on the channel, following widespread outrage over allegations that he was on the Press TV payroll.

Mr Livingstone, the former mayor of London, has appeared on the channel for almost two years and presented seven book review programmes, including three since he won the Labour mayoral nomination over Jewish candidate Oona King in September.

But Simon Fletcher, his chief of staff, said Mr Livingstone would no longer be working for the channel as from March.

Mr Fletcher said: "He had an arrangement predating his selection as Labour candidate to record a number of ‘Epilogue’ book review programmes for Press TV, which ends in March."

The veteran Labour politician was labelled a “disgrace” for working for “the English language propaganda arm of the Iranian regime” by Alan Aziz, director of the Zionist Federation.

Mr Aziz said: “If Mr Livingstone aims to be the mayor of one of the most multicultural cities in the world that is populated by members of all faiths, he should examine carefully the company that he keeps.”

Last updated: 4:03pm, January 27 2011