After Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law, major media corporations announced Friday that they will cease broadcasting throughout Russia.
Earlier this week, BBC News released a statement indicating that the readership on their various platforms had increased dramatically since the beginning of the year and had spiked even further from the week prior.
Touting a near triple year-t0-date average at 10.7 million viewers to their Russian language website, BBC also said they had a 252% increase of readers currently in Russia from the week prior.
Following this uptick of the citizenry seeking alternative sources for information, the Daily Mail reported that Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had accused the British media company of playing a “determined role in undermining the Russian stability and security.”
This presumably led Russian lawmakers to amend their criminal code which was then signed into law by Putin. Now, the spread of any content deemed “fake” information is punishable by fines and up to 15 years imprisonment.
Fines were also imposed for furthering calls to sanction Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. This decision has left many in the media to determine they have no choice but to remove themselves from the Russian market.
Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait released a statement to his team that read in part, “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.”
#BREAKING: @business following @CNN, @BBC in suspending news operations in Russia following new fake news law:
— Note from Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait sent to Bloomberg Editorial & Research staff: pic.twitter.com/RnnRLelD6P
— Sara Fischer (@sarafischer) March 4, 2022
While Micklethwait stated Bloomberg News would continue to cover news about Russia, they would now be doing so solely from outside the nation. Reuters reported that major outlets like CNN, ABC, BBC, CBS and even the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) would take similar actions.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we have to suspend @BBCNews operations in Russia until we assess impact of new laws which outlaw independent journalism,” BBC Interim Director Jonathan Munro tweeted Friday. “Thoughts with colleagues in Moscow whose voices cannot be silenced for long.”
We are not pulling out @BBCNews journalists from Moscow, as some articles are suggesting. We cannot use their reporting for the time being but they remain valued members of our teams and we hope to get them back on our output as soon as possible.
— Jonathan Munro (@jonathancmunro) March 4, 2022
Munro went on to point out that the BBC journalists, despite their current inactive status, were remaining in Russia for the time being while the situation develops. Some newspapers like the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and The Washington Post have remained on the ground.
A spokesperson for the WSJ has said, “Our top priorities are the safety of our employees and covering this important story fairly and fully. Being in Moscow, freely able to talk to officials and capture the mood, is key to that mission.”
Russia has also taken actions to block access to foreign websites within their country. Facebook, Twitter, Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are among those that are currently blocked.
This behavior by the Russian government has led to defections within their own borders, Reuters reported. After their website was blocked, the entire staff of the Russian television channel Dozhd (Rain) walked out during a live broadcast.
The Entire staff of the Russian TV channel “the rain” resigned during a live stream with last words: “no war” and then played “swan lake” ballet video (just like they did on all USSR tv channels when it suddenly collapsed) #Ukriane #UkraineRussiaWar #Russia #StandWithUkraine️ pic.twitter.com/o4LzUqnWLc
— Ukraine News UK (@UkraineNewsUK) March 4, 2022
Ekho Moskvy, a radio station in Russia, also issued a statement after they were pressured to close down.
Natalya Sindeeva wrote on the Ekho Mosky website, “We need strength to…understand how we can work from here. We really hope that we will return to broadcasting and continue our work.”
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