Nadine Dorries appeared to choke up in the Commons as she praised journalists at the BBC, ITV, and other news outlets “risking their lives” reporting from the Ukrainian war zone.
The remarks came as the culture secretary claimed Vladimir Putin was now “suffering a sporting and cultural Siberia”, with major bodies dropping Russia from competitions over the invasion of Ukraine.
Recognizing the work of journalists who had traveled to the region to cover the conflict in the “theatre of war”, she told MPs everyone was aware of the danger they are “putting themselves in every day”.
Appearing close to tears, the culture secretary said: “I’d just like to offer my heartfelt thanks and admiration… to all of those journalists working for the BBC, the ITV and other news outlets who are risking their lives to bring us unbiased and accurate news from a live war zone”.
She added: “We will keep ratcheting up the pressure on Putin and I will use all the levers in my department to ensure that he is fully ostracized from the international community.”
Echoing the cabinet minister’s sentiments, the Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said “we shouldn’t ever forget the threat” to the personal safety of reporters working out of Ukraine.
But she asked the culture secretary “with that in mind” whether the future funding of the BBC and Channel 4 will be “taken into account”, citing the importance of the BBC World Service.
In recent weeks, as Boris Johnson faced questions about his own leadership, the culture secretary has targeted the BBC, hitting out a culture of a “groupthink” within the organisation.
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And in January, Ms Dorries also announced the BBC’s funding would be frozen for two years, and confirmed the “long-term” future of the license fee model was in doubt — a move described at the time as a “pathetic distraction” from the prime minister’s troubles.
However, in response to Ms Jardine’s question, the culture secretary said on Thursday: “I have always said the BBC is a great British, global brand, and it needs protecting.
“I have always said it was a polar bear on a shrinking ice cap and we needed to review the funding model in order to protect the BBC and what is best of the BBC, which includes the World Service”.
She later added: “We’re all watching every broadcast. We’re all watching the news, we’re all reading the newspaper.
“We all know the danger that both journalists in broadcast and in printed media are putting themselves in every day. We’re here protecting the House of Commons — they are in the theater of war putting themselves in harms way and we cannot commend them enough”.
During the session, Ms Dorries also described culture as the “third front” in the Ukrainian invasion, with Russia being stripped from major international sporting tournaments.
“Putin is now suffering a sporting and cultural Siberia of his own making — it will be causing the Russian leader real pain,” she told MPs.
“Putin needs these global events to conceal his illegitimacy and the heinous acts he is committing in Ukraine”
And when tackled on UK sanctions, she insisted that English football had “reached a turning point” after having “tolerated the investment of Russian kleptocrats for far too long”.