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BBC says suspends operation in Russia for stricter laws

The law criminalizes fake news about the Russian Armed Forces and their defamation

LONDON, March 4. /TASS/. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced on Friday that it suspended work in Russia due to its tougher legislation.

"This legislation appears to criminalize 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 referring to the law approved on Friday by the Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament).

The law criminalizes fake news about the Russian Armed Forces and their defamation.

"Our BBC News service in Russian will continue to operate from outside Russia," Davie said.

"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," he said.

"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," the BBC head added.

Russia’s media watchdog has earlier restricted access to the websites of some media outlets for publishing unreliable information about the special military operation in Ukraine. Among them are the resources that are recognized in Russia as foreign agents, such as Meduza, the Voice of America, Radio Liberty as well as BBC, Deutsche Welle and others.

About the law

The law on public circulation of deliberately false information about the Russia’s Armed Forces, which is presented as reliable, provides for a fine of up to 1.5 million rubles or a fine worth the convict’s aggregate wages for up to 18 months. Other punishment options are correctional labor for a term of up to one year or compulsory labor for a term of three years, or imprisonment for the same term.

Provided that the law is breached with the use of official position, for mercenary reasons, or on grounds of political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred or enmity, the offense will be punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years or a fine of up to 5 million rubles. Other punishment options are compulsory labor for a term of up to five years or imprisonment for up to ten years. Provided that the fake information entails grave consequences, the term of imprisonment will be from ten to 15 years.