Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said it has suspended its operations in Russia.
It said it took this step after local tax authorities initiated bankruptcy proceedings against RFE/RL’s Russian entity last week and police intensified pressure on its journalists.
“These Kremlin attacks on RFE/RL’s ability to operate in Russia are the culmination of a years-long pressure campaign against RFE/RL, which has maintained a physical presence in Russia since 1991 when it established its Moscow bureau at the invitation of then-President Boris Yeltsin,” the organization wrote in a press release this weekend.
“Also on March 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that could subject any journalist who deviates from the Kremlin’s talking points on the Ukraine war to a 15-year prison sentence. Because RFE/RL journalists continue to tell the truth about Russia’s catastrophic invasion of its neighbor, the company plans to report about these developments from outside of Russia.”
CNN International, ABC News, Bloomberg News, and the BBC have also said they will no longer originate reports from within Russia due to concerns over the new law, according to a report from The New York Times. Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcaster, closed its Russian news bureau in early February after Russia revoked its reporters’ credentials.
RFE/RL President & CEO Jamie Fly said in the announcement, “Following years of threats, intimidation and harassment of our journalists, the Kremlin, desperate to prevent Russian citizens from knowing the truth about its illegal war in Ukraine, is now branding honest journalists as traitors to the Russian state. We will continue to expand our reporting for Russian audiences and will use every platform possible to reach them at a time when they need our journalism more than ever.”
It said that in the past week, nine of RFE/RL’s Russian language websites were blocked after RFE/RL refused to comply with the government’s demands to delete information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It said Russia also has blocked a number of Russian-language websites from abroad, including Latvia-based Meduza, BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America, not to mention Twitter and Facebook.