LONDON: Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has urged Russian authorities to repeal a “draconian” law introduced on Saturday making the publication of “false” or “mendacious” information about the Russian armed forces punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Following the move, Russian authorities on Sunday blocked additional independent news outlets as the Kremlin took action to control coverage of its war in Ukraine.
The clampdown targeted a number of digital media outlets, including Mediazona, Republic, Snob.ru, and Agentstvo.
Mediazona said it had been blocked, “because we cover honestly what is happening in Ukraine and call the invasion an invasion, and the war a war.”
Jeanne Cavelier, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said: “We are looking on helplessly as Russia’s independent media are being silenced to death.
“With this new amendment, putting journalists in Russia at risk of significant criminal penalties, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin has delivered the final blow and completed the destruction of Russia’s independent media, which had already been considerably weakened by the foreign agents’ law enacted at the end of 2017. We call on the Russian authorities to repeal this draconian law at once.”
In recent days, Russia has imposed almost total media censorship in the country and launched an unprecedented crackdown on news outlets, journalists, and social media platforms.
Last week, independent broadcasters Echo of Moscow, and Dozhd TV were taken off air and access to their websites was blocked as a result of the investigation. Meanwhile, access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms have been restricted across the country.
BBC News and Deutsche Welle also suspended their operations in Russia after the country’s parliament approved the law. Similarly, Netflix, and TikTok have suspended most of their services in Russia.
Meanwhile, other news outlets protested the decision by ceasing broadcasting or shutting down, with one news outlet replacing broadcasting with music and the repeated message: “We cannot speak, we don’t want to lie.”
Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor has blocked at least 30 independent news outlets since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.