Italian and German public broadcasters suspend reporting in Russia due to new media law

The Ukrainian and Russian flags are seen through broken glass in this illustration taken March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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ROME, March 5 (Reuters) – Italian state broadcaster RAI said on Saturday it was suspending operations in Russia to “protect the safety” of its journalists after Moscow introduced a law threatening prison terms of up to to 15 years for broadcasting what the government calls false. news.

Major German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF also said on Saturday they had suspended coverage of their respective studios in Moscow “for the time being”.

They joined a growing number of international media companies, including Britain’s BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and Bloomberg News, in ending reporting in Russia. Read more

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“This measure is necessary to protect the safety of journalists on site and (to ensure) maximum freedom of information about the country,” RAI said in a statement.

He added that information on Russia would be provided by journalists working in neighboring countries or returning to Italy. RAI did not specify the number of journalists it currently has in Russia.

A spokesperson for WDR, a regional subsidiary of ARD, said “ARD and ZDF are examining the consequences of the law passed on Friday and are suspending coverage of their Moscow studios for the time being.”

The spokesperson said the two broadcasters would continue to provide information about events in Russia and Ukraine to the public from their other sites, the spokesperson said.

Russian officials have repeatedly said that false information has been spread by Russia’s enemies such as the United States and its Western European allies in an attempt to sow discord among the Russian people.

The head of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, said on Friday that “literally by tomorrow this law will impose penalties – and very severe penalties – on those who have lied and made statements who have discredited our armed forces”.

Italy has traditionally enjoyed closer relations with Russia than many other Western countries, with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi having forged particularly warm ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi questioned in December whether EU sanctions could work against Moscow, but he has since endorsed tough restrictions on Russia, even though government officials said it could trigger an energy crisis in Italy, which imports around 40% of its gas from Russia. Read more

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Reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome Additional reporting by Elke Ahlswede in Frankfurt Editing by Frances Kerry

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