Russia on Friday blocked Facebook and moved to impose harsh jail terms for publishing “fake news” about the army as part of efforts to muffle dissent over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Social media staple Facebook was blocked over several instances of “discrimination” of Russian state media, media regulator Roskomnadzor said.
Earlier in the day, Russian lawmakers backed legislation that would impose harsh jail terms and fines for publishing “fake news”.
Russia’s lower house said in a statement that if fake news stories “led to serious consequences, (the legislation) threatens imprisonment of up to 15 years”.
Amendments were also passed to fine or jail people calling for sanctions against Russia.
The BBC, which has a large bureau in Moscow and runs a Russian-language news website, reacted by announcing a halt of its operations in Russia.
“This legislation appears to criminalise the process of independent journalism,” BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in a statement.
He warned that journalists could face “the risk of criminal prosecution simply for doing their jobs”.
Two Russian outlets, Nobel Prize-winning newspaper Novaya Gazeta and business news website The Bell, said Friday they will stop reporting on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to protect their journalists.
The past year has seen an unprecedented crackdown on independent and critical voices in Russia that has intensified since the invasion.
Russia’s media watchdog said Friday it had restricted access to the BBC and other independent media websites, further tightening controls over the internet.