One of the most annoying things during the Trump presidency was mainstream media journalists crying “press freedom” when the former president was mean to them or criticized their coverage. Now, amid Russia’s terrible invasion of Ukraine, we’re seeing what a crackdown on press freedom actually looks like—and it ain’t pretty.
“Russia clamped down harder Friday on news and free speech than at any time in President Vladimir V. Putin’s 22 years in power, blocking access to Facebook and major foreign news outlets, and enacting a law to punish anyone spreading ‘false information’ about its Ukraine invasion with up to 15 years in prison,” the New York Times reports.
“Mr. Putin signed a law that effectively criminalizes any public opposition to or independent news reporting about the war against Ukraine,” the Times continues. “Taking effect as soon as Saturday, the law could make it a crime to simply call the war a ‘war’—the Kremlin says it is a ‘special military operation’— on social media or in a news article or broadcast. Announcements that the law was coming had already pushed Russian independent media outlets to shut down in recent days, and more followed on Friday.”
“Everything that’s not propaganda is being eliminated,” Nobel-Prize-winning independent Russian journalist Dmitri A. Muratov said.
In response to this disturbing crackdown, media outlets like the BBC and CNN have halted their broadcasts and coverage from Russia due to fears their journalists could face arrest and imprisonment.
It’s with a heavy heart that we have had to suspend @BBCNews operations in Russia until we assess impact of new laws which outlaw independent journalism. Thoughts with colleagues in Moscow whose voices cannot be silenced for long.
— Jonathan Munro (@jonathancmunro) March 4, 2022
This just in from a CNN spokesperson: "CNN will stop broadcasting in Russia while we continue to evaluate the situation and our next steps moving forward."
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 4, 2022
Russia is also taking the drastic step of shutting down Facebook and otherwise cracking down on social media platforms to stop the proliferation of information about its unprovoked invasion that it dislikes.
In case you’re wondering, this is what an actual assault on the free press looks like.
As former Congressman Justin Amash noted, “Russia’s legislative assault on independent media outlets over allegations that they spread dangerous misinformation should be a reminder to people everywhere that no state should have the power to dictate to anyone what is false and unsuitable for public consideration.”
We’re (thankfully) still a ways away from the kind of outright government bans on journalism Russia is enacting. But Americans should heed Russia’s disturbing warning as censorious attitudes grow more popular on our shores.