White House Slams Russia's Censorship of War Coverage

The White House
(Image credit: Matt H. Wade/Wikimedia Commons)

The Biden administration condemned Russia's passage of a law that punishes journalists for what the country said was publishing “false” information about its war against Ukraine, an effort to warp the definition of disinformation to censor media outlets.

The law would levy prison sentences of up to 15 years for anyone, professional journalist or citizen journalist, for spreading “false information” about the war, the White House said.

According to Interfax, the vote on the new law was unanimous and that it amends the criminal code to penalize “false information” about Russian troops, any “discrediting” of those forces or “calls for anti-Russian sanctions.’

Also: CNN Stops Broadcasting in Russia

“To hide the truth from its own citizens, Russia’s censorship agency has shuttered independent Russian media outlets, blocked social media, and restricted access in Russia to international news outlets,” said Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the National Security Council.

Committee to Protect Journalists executive director Robert Mahoney said Putin has “plunged Russia into an information dark age by criminalizing independent reporting of his war in Ukraine.”

Irina Borogan, co-founder of Agentura.ru, a London-based website covering Russia, told CPJ that under the law, journalists must call the war a “special operation” whose goal it is to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. “I understand for Western news [consumers], it sounds absurd or crazy, but it’s how it is.” ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.