Russia’s media watchdog has said it restricted access to several independent media websites including the BBC, tightening controls over the internet more than one week after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Access to websites of the BBC, the independent news website Meduza, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and the Russian-language website of the United States-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Svoboda were “limited”, Roskomnadzor said on Friday, following a request from prosecutors.
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Russia has repeatedly complained that Western media organisations offer a partial – and often anti-Russian – view of the world while failing to hold their own leaders to account for devastating foreign wars such as Iraq, and corruption.
The BBC said it would not be deterred by the Russian curbs.
“Access to accurate, independent information is a fundamental human right which should not be denied to the people of Russia, millions of whom rely on BBC News every week,” it said.
“We will continue our efforts to make BBC News available in Russia, and across the rest of the world.”
Western leaders have for years raised concerns about the dominance of state media in Russia and say the freedoms won when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 have been rolled back by President Vladimir Putin.
According to an official notice received on March 3, the Russian communications watchdog said Radio Liberty’s Russian service had spread “obviously fake socially significant information about the alleged Russian attack on Ukrainian territory”.
“Such information is wrong,” Radio Liberty cited the official notice as saying.
The European Union last week announced a ban on several Russian-funded medial outlets, most prominently Russia Today and Sputnik.
“[They] will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our Union” EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said after announcing the ban.
Sputnik responded with a sardonic statement, saying: “We suggest the European Commission not stop halfway and ban the internet altogether.”
RT’s French subsidiary tweeted the ban “goes against the very principles of freedom of expression” and said it was a victim of “censorship”.
Describing the situation in Ukraine has become a sensitive issue in Moscow.
Putin said the “special military operation” was essential to ensure Russian security after the United States enlarged the NATO military alliance to Russia’s borders and supported pro-Western leaders in Kyiv.
Russian officials do not use the word “invasion” and say Western media have failed to report on what they cast as the “genocide” of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine.