The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Western news outlets curb reporting, broadcasts in Russia as Putin signs law cracking down on Ukraine coverage

Britain’s BBC announced Friday that it would suspend coverage from Russia after government censors there blocked access to the network and several other foreign news organizations’ websites for spreading what Moscow called “false information” about the invasion of Ukraine. (Frank Augstein/AP)

Several major media organizations said Friday that they would limit activity in Russia, hours after President Vladimir Putin signed a measure into law criminalizing news coverage that accurately portrays the country’s bloody incursion into Ukraine as an “invasion.”

Bloomberg said it will “temporarily suspend our news gathering inside Russia,” according to a statement from Editor in Chief John Micklethwait. “The change to the criminal code, which seems designed to turn any independent reporter into a criminal purely by association, makes it impossible to continue any semblance of normal journalism inside the country.”

CBS and ABC both said they would not broadcast from Russia at least for the day because of the new regulations, which ABC described in a statement as a “censorship law.” Both cited concerns about the safety of their reporting teams and said they will continue to assess the situation.

CNN, meanwhile, said the network “will stop broadcasting in Russia” — effectively cutting off its signal in the country — “while we continue to evaluate the situation and our next steps moving forward.”

Russia’s independent media, under siege for years, teeters under new Putin crackdown

The moves follow a law passed by Russia’s parliament and signed by Putin on Friday that bans what leaders there consider “fake news” about the Kremlin’s attack on Ukraine. The law bars journalists from calling it an “invasion,” and could leave those reporting accurate news facing 15-year prison sentences.

.Britain’s BBC also announced Friday that it would suspend coverage from Russia after government censors there blocked access to the network and several other foreign news organizations’ websites for spreading what it called “false information” about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It’s unclear how much the policies will affect the ability of Western news organizations to report on the ongoing conflict in neighboring Ukraine, where dozens of media outlets have sent correspondents to cover the Russian aggression.

But Putin’s measures have already been devastating to Russian independent newspapers, TV and radio stations within the country, many of which have shuttered or sent its staff overseas.

A new iron curtain is descending across Russia’s Internet

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday implored Russian officials to allow local and international media outlets to operate freely. Gulnoza Said, the committee’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, called Russia’s actions following its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine “total censorship.”

“The Russian public cannot be deprived of information and news and be forced to rely on the Kremlin-approved interpretation of events at this very important time in Russian history,” she said in a statement. “The censorship must stop, and bans must be lifted.”

In addition to the BBC, Russia has blocked access to Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Deutsche Welle, along with major Ukrainian websites, The Washington Post reported Friday. Facebook has also been blocked.

A company spokeswoman said The Post is still assessing the new law’s potential impact on its correspondents and local staff.

Gina Harkins contributed to this report.

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