State Duma Committee OKs Draft Law Criminalizing 'False News' About Russian Military

A committee in Russia's State Duma has approved a draft law criminalizing the distribution of "false news" about military operations amid a crackdown on independent media outlets covering Moscow's ongoing, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The Committee for State Building and Legislations approved the draft legislation on March 3.

After full approval by lawmakers, the bill is expected to 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."

The bill envisions penalties of up to 10 years in prison for individuals convicted of the offense. The penalty for the distribution of "false news" about the Russian Army that leads to "serious consequences" rises to up to 15 years in prison.

The full State Duma is expected to debate the legislation on March 4.

The move comes as 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.

Russia's media regulator 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 that it be called a "special military operation."

On March 3, one of the most popular media outlets in the country, Moscow-based the Ekho Moskvy radio station, said it would be closing after being taken off air this week over its coverage of the invasion, while the popular Russian television station Dozhd suspended its operations amid pressure linked to its coverage.