Russia Steps Up Censorship With Law Against ‘False Information’

Russia Steps Up Censorship With Law Against ‘False Information’

Then, on Friday, the government said it would block access to Russian-language media produced outside the country: the websites of the Voice of America, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the popular Latvian-based news outlet Meduza. The reason: the systematic distribution of what it called false information about the “special military operation on the territory of Ukraine.”

Russians will still be able to reach blocked media through the popular Telegram messaging app, where many news outlets have their own channels. Some can also use virtual private networks, or VPN’s, to bypass restrictions.

The BBC announced on Friday that it was temporarily suspending all journalistic work within Russia in response to the law, though it would continue to operate its Russian-language site — which reached a record 10.7 million people in the past week — from outside the country.

“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,” Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, said in a statement.

Znak, an independent news outlet covering Russia’s regions, shuttered its website on Friday, with a statement saying: “We are suspending our operations given the large amount of new restrictions on the functioning of the news media in Russia.”

And The Village, a digital lifestyle magazine that offered recommendations for shopping, restaurants and other activities in Moscow and St. Petersburg, moved its operations to Warsaw this week in response to its website being blocked. The magazine also announced that, out of fear of the new law, it was retroactively editing its articles to change any mention of the word “war” to “special operation.”

Until recently, Russia’s mostly uncensored internet had provided an outlet for Russians to express dissent and to read news reports outside the Kremlin propaganda bubble that envelops much of the country’s traditional news media. But amid the war in Ukraine, which has touched off protests across the country and an outpouring of opposition from Russians online, the Kremlin appears to see the internet as a newfound threat.

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