BBC ‘temporarily suspends’ work of news journalists and support staff in Russia

Parliament in Moscow passes law that outlaws spreading 'fake' news about war in Ukraine

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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 outlets.

Director-general Tim Davie said the new law appeared to “criminalise the process of independent journalism” in the country.

Russia's parliament, the Duma, approved a law on Friday that would make it a criminal offence to spread “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 Russian stability and security”.

A statement from Mr Davie said: “This legislation … 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.”

Mr Davie paid tribute to BBC staff's “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.”

Earlier on Friday, the Duma approved a law making it a criminal offence punishable by up to 15 years in prison for the publication of “fake news” concerning its armed forces.

The law would also make it an offence to call for sanctions against Russia.

Jonathan Munro, the interim director of BBC News, confirmed the corporation “is not pulling out journalists from Moscow”.

He tweeted: “We cannot use their reporting for the time being but they remain valued members of our teams and we hope to get them back on our output as soon as possible.”

Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova had previously accused the BBC of playing “a determined role in undermining the Russian stability and security”.

In the UK, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has opened 27 investigations into the “due impartiality” of programmes broadcast on the Kremlin-backed RT news channel, formerly known as Russia Today.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said RT should lose its licence and “never again” be able to broadcast “poisonous propaganda”.

But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said earlier this week that the BBC risked being banned in Russia if RT was shut down in the UK.

Reports that BBC News services were being blocked in Russia prompted the broadcaster to issue a statement on Friday morning, saying it would “continue our efforts to make BBC News available in Russia, and across 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 through the Tor network, a privacy-focused software used to access the dark web, in a bid to thwart censorship attempts.

Updated: March 04, 2022, 6:49 PM