HomeEuropeBBC suspends Russian news operation amid free speech curbs

BBC suspends Russian news operation amid free speech curbs

The BBC is temporarily suspending the work of all its journalists inside Russia amid draconian new free speech laws backed by the Russian parliament, the broadcaster’s director said Friday.

“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 job,” said Tim Davie in a statement, adding that while the BBC assesses the effects of the new laws he has been left with “no choice” but to halt its operations.

The move came after lawmakers in the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, voted unanimously Friday to back a law punishing those spreading information countering state narratives around Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Disseminating “fake news” about the Russian military and its “special military operation” in Ukraine could result in up to 15 years in prison, if passed.

It also follows the BBC’s decision to stop licensing its TV content Tuesday in condemnation of the invasion.

BBC News Director Jonathan Munro confirmed the move would not mean pulling journalists out of Moscow, but rather stop their output temporarily. “They remain valued members of our teams and we hope to get them back on our output as soon as possible,” he said.

The Russian government also blocked access Friday to a number of foreign media outlets including the BBC, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Free Europe. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, said it was acting because of these outlets’ “purposeful dissemination on a systematic basis of false information” regarding the conflict in Ukraine.



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