The British Broadcasting Company on Tuesday reversed its decision to halt news operations in Russia, and will resume broadcasts despite a new censorship law that could imprison journalists up to 15 years for running afoul of state-approved talking points.
BBC director-general Tim Davie announced the suspension Friday, saying the new law, passed unanimously by Russian officials days after the invasion of Ukraine began, ”appears to criminalize the process of independent journalism.”
Tuesday’s about-face cited the “urgent need to report from inside Russia,” but did not provide any details on how BBC journalists would try to navigate Russia’s edict. It came the same day that The New York Times said it was pulling editorial staff out of the invading nation.
“We have considered the implications of the new legislation alongside the urgent need to report from inside Russia. … After careful deliberation we have decided to resume English language reporting from Russia this evening (Tuesday 8 March), after it was temporarily suspended at the end of last week.”
CNN, ABC News and CBS News were all among the media companies who were halting broadcasting from Russia. BBC News is the first among them to return to reporting.
On Friday, Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a law banning what it called “fake news” — or news that is not approved by the Kremlin — with a punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The law targets specifically information about the distribution of so-called “false news” about the invasion of Ukraine — which President Vladimir Putin has euphemistically called a “special military operation.”
The draconian censorship legislation has forced some of the last independent Russian media to shut down, including the TV station Dozhd and the radio station Ekho Moskvy. Other sites have been blocked, and access to social media networks appears to have been slowed down in the country.