BBC Journalists Halt Work in Russia Following Censorship Law: ‘The Safety of Our Staff Is Paramount’

New Russian legislation “appears to criminalize the process of independent journalism,” BBC director-general Tim Davie says

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BBC News has ordered its journalists to suspend all work in Russia after the government on Friday passed a censorship law designed to impact independent reporters not working for state-run media, targeting the distribution of so-called “false news.”

BBC responded Friday by saying its journalists based in the Russian federation would “temporarily suspend” their work for their own safety — but that the network would continue to operate from outside of Russia.

“This legislation appears to criminalise the process of independent journalism. It leaves us no other option than to temporarily suspend the work of all BBC News journalists and their support staff within the Russian Federation while we assess the full implications of this unwelcome development,” BBC director-general Tim Davie said in a statement. “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. I’d like to pay tribute to all of them, for their bravery, determination and professionalism.”

“We remain committed to making accurate, independent information available to audiences around the world, including the millions of Russians who use our news services. Our journalists in Ukraine and around the world will continue to report on the invasion of Ukraine,” Davie added.

Earlier on Friday, Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a law banning fake news — or news that they don’t agree with and not approved by Moscow — with a punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The law targets specifically information about the distribution of “false news” about military operations in Ukraine.

The draconian censorship legislation has forced some of the last independent Russian media to shut down, including the TV station Dozhd and the radio station Ekho Moskvy, and other sites have either been blocked or access to social media networks appears to have been slowed down in the country.

For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly suggested that the BBC was physically removing its journalists from Russia.