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Open Letter to the Owner of GB News from a Ukrainian Refugee: Stop Peddling Russian Narratives

Journalist Maria Romanenko calls on Sir Paul Marshall, a major shareholder in the British TV news station, to avoid Kremlin propaganda

Paul Marshall and Michael Gove at the opening of the Globe Academy in Southwark, London in 2010. Photo: Willows Images UK/Alamy

Open Letter to the Owner of GB News from a Ukrainian Refugee‘Stop Peddling Russian Narratives’

Journalist Maria Romanenko calls on Sir Paul Marshall, a major shareholder in the British TV news station, to avoid Kremlin propaganda

Dear Paul,

I write to you as a Ukrainian refugee currently enjoying the hospitality of Great Britain. I, like nearly 150,000 others, have been struck by the wonderful kindness shown by the British public in opening their hearts and homes. 

I understand that you have been, in your life, someone who has made a significant amount of money. I believe that in December 2022, your hedge fund, Marshall Wace, showed profits for the year in excess of £700m, and you were one of twenty-three to receive a share of this pot. 

Your money has often been put to good use. I note your interest in education and how you are Chairperson of Trustees at the Education Policy Institute. More importantly, I am aware of the vital work you carried out in relation to the formation of, and advocacy for, the Pupil Premium during your time being involved with the Liberal Democrat party. This has resulted in a significant positive impact for so many disadvantaged children in England and is an achievement that you should so rightly be proud of. 

Likewise, as an adopted Mancunian, it was great to see and read about your involvement with the Red Knights campaign to purchase Manchester United. Whilst ultimately unsuccessful, your actions gave hope to so many United fans both in Manchester and across the world. 

With that said, I am really worried about what you are doing with some of your money right now. 

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When you invested in GB News, there was hope that you would marry two incredible ideas. Great Britain, is known for its pride in relation to honest journalism, and news, the presentation of information in a fair and even-handed manner.

I found this out first-hand. When I arrived at Manchester Airport, GB News’ cameras and crew were there to meet and interview me. You wanted to share my experience of escaping and relief at being safe.

Last week, in a landmark event, President Volodymyr Zelensky met with the government and with King Charles. It was a significant moment, only Zelensky’s second overseas visit since the start of the all-out invasion, and came at an incredibly delicate time in the war for Ukraine to retain its sovereignty.

It was disappointing to see that so many of your employees and commentators chose to post on social media not about what was said at Zelensky’s historic address, but rather to seek to undermine the Ukrainian president by focusing on his attire. It is a pretty niche and fringe view to focus on such a trivial matter in such trying circumstances. 

You can imagine my surprise when the Russian embassy in London pushed the very same narrative the next day. 

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but it makes me and so many other Ukrainians feel unsettled.

These same commentators, with little to no knowledge of Ukraine, continue to pump out mistruths. They promote the very same talking points as you would hear on RT (formerly Russia Today), a channel banned in the UK by Ofcom. One of your commentators was formerly an employee of RT in Russia. I recently questioned one of your commentators about these views and offered for their claims to be independently fact-checked. They chose not to take me up on this offer. 

I further note that these commentators also hold the same anti-Davos/WEF beliefs that you have previously promoted, which are also fair from the mainstream view.

It makes me question whether, as suggested above, it is sheer coincidence that they happen to have these outlier views or whether this is an editorial line that GB News has chosen to purposely push.

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Maria Romanenko

Do you hold these same views promoted by people in your employ? And, if not, how does it make you feel to know that these people are working to undermine the efforts of Ukrainians attempting to protect their own country from an invading Russian force? 

What would you or your employees say to journalists such as Brent Renaud, Vira Hyrych, Pierre Zakrzewski, Yevhenii Sakun, Mantas Kvedaravičius, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, or my friend, Maks Levin, all of whom are amongst those killed by Russia?

What would you say to Oleksandr Kukin, one of the founders of Kyiv Reds, the biggest Manchester United supporters’ group in Ukraine, who was shot and killed by Russian forces whilst he and his family tried to escape? 

I know that it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for GB News following its formation. Losing your actual broadcasting investor in the form of Warner Bros. Discovery has presented an issue for you and resulted in you having to put more of your own money into the company. I know that many also joke about the small viewership of the channel, and it cannot be easy to hear these comments. I also know that you are having problems with Ofcom over your misleading coverage of the coronavirus vaccines. I hope you are able to successfully navigate these choppy waters.

GB News could be a great channel. It could be a force for positive change, just like you have been or – at least – were. 

However, whilst you continue to employ people who peddle false narratives and engage in the promotion of conspiracy theories over facts, it is hard to see how GB News could ever fulfil its potential and bring honour to either Great Britain, or news. Do you really want this to be your legacy? 

We Ukrainians believe passionately in free speech, we fought for decades against communism and the throttling of dissenting voices. In the spirit of that, I am posting this letter to you publicly.

Yours sincerely,

Maria Romanenko

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