A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
This subject is quite sensitive, and some news outlets don’t want to say anything about it on the record for obvious reasons. But Russia’s new censorship law clamping down on the press is forcing some difficult conversations and decisions. There were several updates on Tuesday, which we’ll outline below.
Sky News international affairs editor Dominic Waghorn wrote Tuesday about exiting Russia after a two-week visit “that only got darker and more ominous.” It’s a place “where you can’t call an invasion by 10s of 1000s of Russian troops an invasion,” he said, a place where “independent Russian journalists have mostly left because the state has criminalized journalism.” He said most Russians “see an Orwellian distortion of the apocalypse being visited on their cousins on their TV’s that pretends it’s a limited operation weeding out Nazis.” Waghorn’s description conveyed why we need reporting from Russia but also why it’s so difficult right now…
The NYT exits Russia
Oliver Darcy writes: “The New York Times said Tuesday that, in light of Russia’s anti-journalism law, it has pulled its staff from the country. ‘For the safety and security of our editorial staff working in the region, we are moving them out of the country for now,’ the NYT said. ‘We look forward to them returning as soon as possible while we monitor the application of the new law.’ The Times added that the paper will continue its ‘rigorous reporting on Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and these attempts to stifle independent journalism.’ Former NYT Moscow bureau chief Cliff Levy noted that ‘even in the depths of the Cold War, under the Soviet dictatorship, this never happened…’”
BBC resumes broadcasting
The BBC announced a different approach on Tuesday. The global news outlet, which had suspended operations in Russia while it evaluated the new law last Friday, resumed TV live shots and other work in the country. “We have considered the implications of the new legislation alongside the urgent need to report from inside Russia,” the BBC said in a statement. The network reassured viewers that its standards would not waiver: “We will tell this crucial part of the story independently and impartially, adhering to the BBC’s strict editorial standards. The safety of our staff in Russia remains our number one priority.”
CNN: “We are not shutting down our Moscow bureau”
Oliver Darcy adds: “I checked in with a CNN spokesperson to see if the network, which announced Friday it would stop broadcasting in Russia, had any updates. The rep told me, ‘We are not shutting down our Moscow bureau but we have ceased reporting from there until we have assessed the impact of this new law…’”
The big picture
Major news outlets are taking common-sense precautions right now. The AP’s “live updates” on the war on Tuesday contained no Moscow datelines, for example, though news from Russia was still reported. The Washington Post’s story about Russia being in a hard-currency pinch was written by a reporter in DC instead of Moscow.
The anti-journalism law is imperiling local journalists the most. Almost every day, this newsletter includes new examples of independent Russian reporters fleeing the country. France24, citing Reporters Without Borders, says some are “escaping” to Turkey for the time being. “I think now the future is pretty dark,” TV Rain EIC Tikhon Dzyadko told the WSJ for this new podcast episode. “Normal, independent journalism is almost dead” in Russia. “But I’m still hoping that one day it will survive.”
Adding to the list of companies…
“McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola leave Russia” is one of CNN.com’s headlines right now. Danielle Wiener-Bronner’s story explains why the McDonald’s decision is especially significant.
And here are a couple new examples of major media companies taking action: “Effective immediately, we are suspending all operations in Russia and closing our offices there,” Universal Music Group told Chloe Melas in a statement on Tuesday. “We urge an end to the violence in Ukraine as soon as possible,” UMG added. Also, Condé Nast announced that it is suspending its publishing operations in Russia…