Putin Signs 'Harsh' Law Allowing Long Prison Terms For 'False News' About Army


Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law into effect that calls for sentences of up to 15 years in prison for people who distribute "false news" about the Russian military.

The Kremlin said it needed a "harsh" new law to tackle such reports due to the current "information war."

The law and other aspects of the current Russian clampdown on independent domestic and international media outlets covering Moscow's ongoing unprovoked invasion of Ukraine have already prompted Russian and international closures and suspensions.

Major international broadcasters who have announced suspensions include BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, CBS, and German ARD and ZDF to suspend reporting from inside Russia.

Multiple websites of RFE/RL, BBC, and other outlets have also been blocked over what Russian regulators say is erroneous reports.

Blocks by the Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor have included social media including, most recently, Facebook.

Roskomnadzor has ordered media across the country to only publish information provided by official sources. It also forbids describing the unprovoked actions as an invasion or a war, instead insisting they are called "special military operations."

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Russian lawmakers approved the draft law to criminalize spreading "false news" about the army on March 4.

The legislation will be added as a separate article to the Criminal Code to "prevent the discrediting of the armed forces of the Russian Federation during their operations to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens, maintaining international peace and security."

It envisages penalties of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of the offense. The penalty for the distribution of fake news about the Russian military that leads to "serious consequences" rises to up to 15 years in prison.

It also makes it illegal "to make calls against the use of Russian troops to protect the interests of Russia" or "for discrediting such use" with a penalty possible of up to three years in prison. The same provision applies to calls for sanctions against Russia.

The move comes as the Russian authorities ratchet up pressure on media outlets, threatening them for their reporting about the invasion on topics such as the heavy resistance being put up by Ukrainian forces despite Russia's overwhelming military power.

On March 3, one of the most popular media outlets in the country, the Moscow-based Ekho Moskvy radio station, said it would be closing, at least temporarily, after being taken off air this week over its coverage of the invasion.

Another independent outlet, Dozhd TV, also announced its suspension of broadcasts.