Press freedom crackdown leads to media exodus from Russia

US news agency Bloomberg made the first move, announcing on Friday that it was halting its reporting from Russia. The British BBC and the US broadcaster CNN followed suit and stopped their reporting from Russia. EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN [ANDY RAIN/EPA]

Russia’s new, controversial media law is pushing several international media outlets to suspend their operations in the country. EURACTIV Germany reports.

According to the new law, the spread of alleged “false information” about the war in Ukraine is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

US news outlet Bloomberg made the first move, announcing on Friday that it was halting its reporting from Russia. The British BBC and the US broadcaster CNN quickly followed suit.

German media have also decided to limit their reporting from the country. News broadcasters ARD and ZDF are examining the consequences of the law passed on Friday and are suspending reporting from their Moscow studios for the time being.

The two public broadcasters will continue to provide audiences with comprehensive information on events in Russia and Ukraine from their other locations, they said in a statement published on Saturday (5 March).

Controversial media law

The background is the controversial media law passed by the Russian State Duma on Friday (4 March).

According to this law, the dissemination of alleged “false information” about the Russian armed forces is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, whereby deviations from the Kremlin’s official statements are already classified as “false information”.

Using the term “war” concerning the conflict in Ukraine, for example, is illegal because it is seen as a “military operation” to “secure peace” according to the Kremlin’s official account.

The same goes for the numbers of casualties, which according to the Ukrainian defence ministry’s figures, are considerably higher than those provided by the Kremlin. However, their dissemination is now also prohibited by law.

Russian media have also come under increasing pressure since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several media houses that deviated from the official Russian position, for instance, were closed down for their critical reporting in the days after the invasion began.

Social media has also been subject to a growing number of restrictions. On Friday (4 March), the Kremlin announced it would block social media platforms Facebook and Twitter in the country after they both repeatedly refused to delete information critical of Moscow.

Russia wages war against independent media

As the war in Ukraine continues, Russia has stepped up efforts to restrict the availability of information, targeting independent reporting on both sides of the border. 

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/ Alice Taylor]

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