In alarming curbs, Russia cuts Facebook, Twitter access amid Ukraine war

Published on Mar 05, 2022 05:53 AM IST

Ukraine war: Putin has signed into a law a bill that threatens jail term of up to 15 years over "fake news" against Russia's army.

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video link. (via REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video link. (via REUTERS)

In another unprecedented action, this time on social media giants, Russia on Friday blocked Facebook and introduced Twitter restrictions amid moves to limit access to what the Vladimir Putin administration defines as "fake news" as the Kremlin wages war on Ukraine. Putin has signed into a law a bill that threatens jail term of up to 15 years over "fake news" against Russia's army. Moscow has repeatedly objected to the Ukraine conflict being referred to as "war", and instead wants it to be called as a "special military operation".

"Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information... deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out. We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organise for action," read a tweet by Nick Clegg, President, Global Affairs, Meta, Facebook's parent firm.

Twitter services have been restricted too. Roskomnadzor, the state communication watchdog, said it cut access to Twitter and Facebook in line with a decision by the prosecutor general's office. Twitter was earlier accused of failing to delete the content banned by Russian authorities and slowed down access to it.

If fake news "led to serious consequences, (the legislation) threatens imprisonment of up to 15 years", Russia's lower house said in a statement on Friday, news agency AFP reported.

Soon after the law was cleared, the BBC said that it "is temporarily suspending its journalists' work in Russia, in response to a new law which threatens to jail anyone Russia deems to have spread 'fake' news on the armed forces." The law, it added, "appears to criminalise the process of independent journalism".

"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. I'd like to pay tribute to all of them, for their bravery, determination and professionalism," Russian authorities, BBC Director-General Tim Davie, said.

The services to Meduza, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and the Russian-language website of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Svoboda, "limited".

US-based CNN news network has also said, according to reports, it will stop broadcasting in Russia.

Russia's Ukraine onslaught has not led to worldwide protests, and prompted sanctions and punitive measures by the western countries. Within the country too, there have been massive demonstrations with thousands out on streets to raise their voice.

(With inputs from AFP, Reuters)

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