BBC Suspends Work Of Its Journalists In Russia
The BBC said Friday it was suspending the work of its journalists in Russia after Moscow backed imposing jail terms on media publishing “false information” about the military.
The corporation’s director-general, Tim Davie, said the new legislation was “unwelcome” and “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,” he added.
Davie said BBC News in Russian will continue to operate from outside Russia.
The announcement comes after a surge in demand for BBC content on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the last week.
The broadcaster has said that the audience for its Russian language news website more than tripled its weekly average, reaching 10.7 million in the last seven days.
In English, visitors to bbc.com in Russia soared by 252 percent to 423,000 in the same period, the broadcaster said.
It also made more shortwave frequencies available in Ukraine for listeners to receive BBC radio.
Davie said that staff safety was “paramount” and the new legislation not only targets Russian journalists but also foreigners.
“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.”
The BBC last year saw one of its Moscow correspondents effectively expelled from Russia, supposedly in “retaliation” for London denying accreditation to a Russian reporter.
But Sarah Rainsford, one of the corporation’s long-serving reporters in the Russian capital, had previously challenged Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus about a violent crackdown on protesters in Minsk.
The UK’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom is currently examining alleged breaches of its code by pro-Kremlin broadcaster RT over its coverage of the invasion of Ukraine.