BBC Accuses Russia Of 'Criminalising Independent Journalism' As Operations Temporarily Suspended

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A blast is seen in the TV tower, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kiev.


The BBC has accused Russia of “criminalising independent journalism” as the broadcaster said it will “temporarily suspend” the work of all its journalists and support staff in the country.

The move came after Russian authorities passed legislation cracking down on foreign outlets and their reporting of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.

A law approved by the Russian parliament on Friday makes it a criminal offence to spread “fake” or “false” news about the invasion.

Earlier this week, the BBC said millions of people in Russia are turning to the broadcaster for independent information about the country’s invasion of Ukraine as an alternative to state-sponsored programing.

The weekly audience for the BBC’s Russian language news website more than tripled following the invasion compared to its weekly average from earlier this year, it said, reaching a record 10.7 million people in the last week compared to a usual average of 3.1 million.

Visits to the English-language site in Russia were up 252 percent to 423,000 last week alone, the corporation said.

The Kremlin has accused the BBC of playing a “determined role in undermining the Russian stability and security”.

A statement from 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.

“Our BBC News service in Russian will continue to operate from outside Russia.

“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.”

As HuffPost UK reported, the BBC has turned to an increasingly obsolete form of radio broadcasting to help people in Ukraine keep up-to-date with news as Russia bombed TV towers and attacked internet services.

The corporation said on Wednesday that the two new shortwave radio frequencies – 15735 kHz and 5875 kHz – would broadcast World Service news in English for four hours a day. These frequencies can be received clearly in Kyiv and parts of Russia, the BBC said.

Shortwave transmissions of the World Service, an international news service broadcast in English and 40 other languages, have been steadily reduced since 2001 amid the growth of online news and digital radio. The BBC stopped broadcasting to Europe on shortwave in 2008.

Shortwave radio frequencies – which can be heard via cheap portable receivers and are infamous for the crackly reception – have historically been used during international conflicts, and it was the main medium used by warring nations to speak to the populations of their enemies during the World War II.

On Tuesday, two Russian missiles struck the TV tower in Kyiv. Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said the Kremlin was preparing to cut off a large part of Ukraine from the internet and communications. “Its goal is to break the resistance of the people and the army,” he tweeted.

Source: Huff Post