Amid Ukraine war, protests and the coverage, Russia  took an unprecedented step to punish “fake news” against its army. Russian President Vladimir Putin cleared a law of up to 15 years of jail term as punishment. A pushback soon followed with the BBC announcing that it was halting its operations. Others including CNN and Bloomberg announced similar measures.

Russia’s parliament on Friday passed a law making it a criminal offence to spread fake information about the armed forces and Ukraine conflict. The lawmakers object to the conflict being called a war instead of calling it a “special military operation.”    

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Following this, Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor said it has restricted access to the BBC’s Russian-language websites and other independent media outlets including Deutsche Welle, Meduza and Radio Liberty, for spreading what it calls false information about the Ukraine conflict.

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BBC director-general Tim Davie said, “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.”

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BBC News service in Russian will continue to operate from outside Russia, he added.

Daive said that the safety of their staff is paramount and they are not prepared to expose them to the risk of criminal prosecution simply for doing their jobs. He paid tribute to the staff members for their bravery, determination and professionalism.

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“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.

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One of Russia’s last independent news outlets, TV Rain, stopped broadcasting on Thursday after coming under pressure for its coverage on the invasion. The channel ended its final broadcast by showing staff walking off set, according to a BBC report.