Colin Freeman

The Kremlin is sanctioning me – but why can’t they get my name right?

Credit: Getty Images

Journalists love being put on blacklists. In a profession that prides itself on holding the powerful to account, there’s no better accolade than being banned from a politician’s press conferences, put on some spin doctor’s dossier of ‘unfriendly’ hacks, or better still, declared persona non grata by some tyrant’s regime. It’s the hack’s equivalent of combat spurs, to be gathered alongside Pulitzers and war wounds.

So what greater backhanded compliment could there be than to be banned by Vladimir Putin from visiting Russia? This was the honour conferred on me last week, when myself and 14 other British journalists were put on a Kremlin sanction list for our allegedly hostile coverage of the war in Ukraine. True, we’re add-ons to a previous list of 40 that the Kremlin put out last year, but better late than never, eh? Plus it means I now join an august club that includes biggies like Clive Myrie and Orla Guerin from the BBC, and columnists such as David Aaronovitch and Con Coughlin. Friends and colleagues have told me to wear it as a ‘badge of pride’, hailing it as a tribute to my trenchant reporting etc. Some folks have even joined my meagre Twitter following, assuming that I am some well-informed Kremlin critic.

Alas, I am not sure it’s quite what it seems. For a start, the Kremlin got my name wrong. I’m on the list as Keith Freeman, not Colin, which makes me sound like some extra from The Office. In the world of reporting, where basics facts matter, messing names up is a discourtesy in itself. And much as it may pain me to admit it, none of the reporting I’ve done from Ukraine particularly qualifies me as someone the Kremlin should have reason to fear. Yes, I’ve been there six times since the war started, reporting mainly for the Telegraph, plus bits for The Spectator.

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Written by
Colin Freeman

Colin Freeman is former chief foreign correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph and author of ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: The mission to rescue the hostages the world forgot.’

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