The BBC is “temporarily suspending” the work of all its news journalists and support staff in Russia after authorities passed legislation cracking down on foreign media.
Director-General Tim Davie said the new law appeared to criminalize “the process of independent journalism” in the country.
Russia’s parliament on Friday approved legislation that would criminalize the dissemination of “fake” or “false” news about the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
It comes after the Kremlin accused the BBC of playing a “determined role in undermining Russia’s stability and security”.
A statement from Mr Davie said: “This legislation appears to criminalize the process of independent journalism. It leaves us no choice but to temporarily suspend the work of all BBC News journalists and their support staff in the Russian Federation while we assess the full impact of this undesirable development.
“Our BBC Russian language news service will continue to operate from outside Russia.
“The safety of our employees is paramount and we are not willing to put them at risk of prosecution just for doing their jobs. I would like to commend them all for their courage, determination and professionalism.
“We remain committed to providing accurate, independent information to audiences around the world, including the millions of Russians who use our intelligence services. Our journalists in Ukraine and around the world will continue to cover the invasion of Ukraine.”
Earlier on Friday, Russia’s Duma passed a law making the publication of “fake news” about its armed forces a criminal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
video of the day
We’re not moving out @BBC News Journalists from Moscow, as some articles suggest. We are unable to use their reporting for the time being, but they remain valued members of our teams and we hope to have them back in our work as soon as possible.
– Jonathan Munro (@jonathancmunro) March 4, 2022
The law would also make it a criminal offense to demand sanctions against Russia.
Jonathan Munro, acting director of BBC News, confirmed that the company “is not withdrawing journalists from Moscow”.
He tweeted, “We are unable to use their coverage for the time being, but they remain valued members of our teams and we hope to have them back in our work as soon as possible.”
Culture Minister Nadine Dorries shared Munro’s tweet again, writing: “Putin doesn’t want the Russian people to know the truth so he has banned independent journalism.
“It is a testament to their amazing persistence that @BBCNews journalists will remain in Moscow while operations are suspended. I know this is hard and my thoughts are with you all.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova previously accused the BBC of playing “a determined role in undermining Russian stability and security”.
Putin doesn’t want the Russian people to know the truth, so he banned independent journalism.
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) March 4, 2022
The secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, has also condemned the new Russian law, calling it a “cynical and deliberate attempt to criminalize journalism”.
She said: “At a time when the Russian people are starving for reliable news and information, Putin is doing everything in his power to block news outlets and silence journalists.
“It’s a cynical and deliberate attempt to criminalize journalism and instill fear in reporters and their readership.
“Ultimately it is a futile exercise and the fearless reporting that takes place will triumph. The NUJ recognizes all those courageous journalists and media workers who continue their work under the most difficult and feverish of circumstances.
“Journalists in the NUJ and around the world stand in solidarity with their colleagues who are providing such an important service in Ukraine and Russia.”
In the UK, broadcasting regulator Ofcom has launched 27 inquiries into the “reasonable impartiality” of programs aired on Kremlin-backed news channel RT, formerly known as Russia Today.
BBC statement on reporting from Russia.
In response to new legislation passed by Russian authorities, BBC Director General Tim Davie says: pic.twitter.com/uhowHW3jkr
– BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) March 4, 2022
Ms Dorries said RT should lose its license and “never again” be able to broadcast “toxic propaganda”.
But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned earlier this week that if RT shuts down in the UK, the BBC risks being banned in Russia.
Reports that BBC News services have been blocked in Russia prompted the broadcaster to issue a statement Friday morning saying it would “continue our efforts to make BBC News available in Russia and the rest of the world”.
It also shared a link to an article reminding viewers that its Ukrainian and Russian language services are available on the dark web.
The BBC has made its international news website available via the Tor network, privacy-focused software used to access the dark web to thwart attempts at censorship.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/bbc-temporarily-suspends-work-of-news-journalists-and-support-staff-in-russia-41412716.html The BBC is “temporarily suspending” the work of news journalists and support staff in Russia.