The UK's National Westminster (NatWest) Bank has frozen the accounts of PRESS TV Ltd, a London-based independent television production company.
The company had been set up to produce news, factual programs and documentaries to be sold to the Tehran-based Press TV News Channel.
Matthew Richardson, Press TV's legal adviser, confirmed that NatWest in its letter of December 7, 2010, announced its closure of Press TV Ltd's bank accounts.
Richardson said that NatWest had refused to explain why it had frozen the accounts.
“To this date, NatWest has neither given a reason nor an explanation for freezing our account. Its letter had not provided any contact names, contact telephone numbers or email addresses. Despite our persistent letters, emails, phone calls and text messages to individuals with whom we had previously corresponded, NatWest has not even made an attempt at a response. It should be noted that it was not Press TV Ltd that initially approached NatWest for business. Rather it was NatWest that sought business with Press TV Ltd with open arms and with a big welcome”, said the Press TV's legal advisor in London.
Richardson said that NatWest has blocked almost £200,000 of the Press TV Ltd money in Pounds, Euros and Dollars without reason or explanation.
“Press TV Ltd works within the framework of the Law and has trained journalists, cameramen, editors and assistant producers, some of which were later recruited by other networks, such as the BBC, CNN, and Sky. It has provided work, job opportunities, training and income for tens of thousands of companies and hundreds of individuals, all of whom contribute to the UK via all various taxes”, said Richardson.
The news company's legal advisor noted that Press TV Ltd was working with NatWest based on a commercial agreement and not a political one, but, he said a raft of issues lead us to think that the Bank has been encouraged by the British government to act against the interests of the company.
“When we witness the violent attacks on our Satellite Van, our vehicles, our cameramen and our equipment, the recent demonization campaign by the BBC, and the ITN of Ken Livingstone, and the threats to our presenters, such as George Galloway in the Houses of Parliament and the death threats to our colleagues, the detention and imprisonment of our British reporter, and the theft of our equipment by Israel in international waters, with the British government not showing any reaction to any of the above incidents, it is reasonable for us to question the British government's position, particularly following the WikiLeak in the Guardian about the government's intentions to close down Press TV Ltd”, added Richardson.
Meanwhile, Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Tony Blair who works for Press TV and recently converted to Islam, blasted the NatWest's move as a "politically motivated act".
It was "intended to cripple a thriving British company whose programs and news bulletins shed light on areas of policy which certain agencies would sooner keep in the dark," she said.
Booth said that NatWest's action was “punitive, draconian theft”.