Major international news outlets including the BBC, CNN and Bloomberg will suspend operations in Russia in response to a new law criminalizing news reports that contradict the Kremlin’s version of the war in Ukraine.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law that criminalizes spreading what the government deems to be fake news, The Associated Press reported.
Under the new measure, a statement as simple as referring to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a “war” rather than a “special military operation” could constitute criminal disinformation, according to The New York Times.
Punishment could include fines or up to three years’ imprisonment, with 15 years possible if authorities decide a report had “severe consequences.”
International news organizations that have announced they would be temporarily suspending operations in Russia include:
The BBC: “The safety of our staff is paramount and we are not prepared to expose them to the risk of criminal prosecution simply for doing their jobs,” Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement.
The Canadian Broadcast Corporation: “In light of this situation and out of concern for the risk to our journalists and staff in Russia, we have temporarily suspended our reporting from the ground in Russia while we get clarity on this legislation,” the CBC announced.
CNN: “CNN will stop broadcasting in Russia while we continue to evaluate the situation and our next steps moving forward,” a spokesperson told the network’s media correspondent, Brian Stelter.
Bloomberg News: “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,” a spokesperson said in a statement sent to HuffPost.
ABC News: “We will continue to assess the situation and determine what this means for the safety of our teams on the ground,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Germany’s ARD and ZDF: In a statement shared by The Associated Press, the public broadcasters said they were examining the consequences of the law and would suspend reporting from Moscow for now.
While it’s not suspending operations, The Washington Post has made the decision to remove bylines and datelines for journalists working from Russia.
Multiple independent Russian news outlets have also shuttered in anticipation of the crackdown. TV Rain, which had already been blocked by regulators, gave its last broadcast via YouTube on Friday, ending with a proclamation of “no to war.”