Russia has recently intensified a crackdown on media agencies and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on the country’s full-fledged attack on Ukraine, blocking the social media giants Twitter and Facebook and signing into law a bill that intentional spreading of ‘fake news’. The moves follow block imposed on the BBC, the US-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and Latvia-based online portal Meduza. The Russian government’s sweeping action against these foreign outlets seeks to establish even tighter controls over the information the domestic audience sees about the invasion of Ukraine.
The state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor informed that it has cut access to the two aforementioned social media giants in line with the decision by the prosecutor general’s office. The watchdog has previously accused Twitter of failing to delete the content that has been banned by Russian authorities and slowed down access to it.
In response to Russia’s action, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s parent company Meta’s president of global affairs, said, “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 organize for action,” he added.
In one of its statements on the issue, Twitter said that the company is “aware of reports” claiming that its platform is blocked in Russia, but it has not been able to confirm the adequacy.
Several news outlets said that they would pause their work and services inside Russia to evaluate the situation. Among them, CNN said that it would stop broadcasting in the country while Bloomberg and the BBC said that they would temporarily suspend their official works there.
Russian authorities have a number of times falsely decried reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian death in Ukraine as ‘fake’ news. State media agencies refer to Russia’s invasion as a “special military operation” rather than a war or an invasion.
The five foreign media organizations that got blocked are among the most influential and often critical foreign media publishing in Russia.
Rozkomnadzor stated that those media agencies had published “false information” on subjects such as “the methods of carrying out combat activities, the numbers of losses of the Russian Federation Armed Forces victims among the civilian population.”
Earlier in the day, the BBC posted certain instructions on Twitter about how Russians could world around the block by means of using apps or the “dark web”.
“Access to accurate, independent information is a fundamental human right which should not be denied to the people of Russia, millions of whom rely on BBC News available in Russia, and across the rest of the world,” the BBC said.
On Wednesday, the BBC informed that it would start broadcasting four hours of news a day in English on shortwave radio in Ukraine and also in several parts of Russia, with the view to revive the antiquated technology used during the Cold War days to circumvent state sponsorship.
Western leaders have for many years raised concerns regarding the dominance of state media in Russia and say that the freedoms won with the collapse of USSR in 1991 has been rolled back by Putin.
Describing the situation in Ukraine has become a first hand as well as a sensitive issue in Moscow. Putin who calls the West as an “empire of lies”, said the “special military operation” (the invasion) was essential to ensure Russian security after the US enlarged the NATO alliance to the borders of Russia and supported pro-Western leaders in Kyiv.
Russian officials do not use the term “invasion” and say that the Western media have failed reporting on what they cast as the “genocide” of Russians in Ukraine.