‘Trash-talking’ the army could get you a year in jail in Russia under new law

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Several major Western news outlets said they were suspending or halting reporting from Russia after the country’s national legislative body, known as the State Duma, approved laws making it a crime to spread “false news” about the military and to advocate for the introduction of foreign sanctions against Russia as Moscow pursues its invasion of Ukraine.

CNN, the BBC, Bloomberg News and the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. were among the Western outlets announcing temporary suspensions of their work inside Russia in the wake of the law’s passage.

“We have with great regret decided to temporarily suspend our newsgathering inside Russia,” Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said Friday. “The change to the criminal code, which seems designed to turn any independent reporter into a criminal purely by association, makes it impossible to continue any semblance of normal journalism inside the country.”

Those convicted of “defaming” the Russian armed forces could face a year in jail and a fine of more than $8,000 or the amount of salary earned over up to 18 months, according to the state-run Tass news agency. A judge can impose a term of imprisonment of no more than a year.

Also on Friday, the Duma adopted a draft law that included criminal liability for publicly supporting a foreign government’s imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. Under the new law, it would be punished by an almost $5,000 fine and up to three years in prison, according to Tass.

Russia has been hit with a number of painful sanctions since its invasion of Ukraine, including targeting major banks and removing them from the international financial clearinghouse system. The move severely limits Moscow’s ability to process international financial transactions.

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