On Friday, the country’s Kremlin-dominated parliament will meet in a special session to consider legalizing a bill that would make “unofficial” reporting on the invasion a crime that is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, Price said in a March 2 statement.
“Russia is engaged in an unprovoked war on Ukraine. At home, the Kremlin is engaged in a full assault on media freedom and the truth, and Moscow’s efforts to mislead and suppress the truth of the brutal invasion are intensifying,” Price said. “The people of Russia did not choose this war. Putin did.”
“They have a right to know about the death, suffering and destruction being inflicted by their government on the people of Ukraine. The people of Russia also have a right to know about the human costs of this senseless war to their own soldiers.”
Moscow asserted that the legislation is designed to fight fake information about Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The bill also aims to punish those who knowingly “distort the purpose, role, and tasks of the Russian Armed Forces, as well as other units during special military and other operations,” said Vasily Piskarev, head of the Duma’s Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, in an interview with state broadcaster Channel One.
Piskarev said the penalties could also apply to those who share “fake” information about Russia’s war losses, adding that the majority of fake materials are “generated in Ukraine,” but are “willingly distributed by a number of Russian media” as well as online via social media.
“It is one thing when it [disinformation] comes at peacetime, and another when our military is performing important tasks of maintaining peace and security, even if this happens abroad. Such fakes demoralize society, undermine confidence in the Russian army, and most importantly are a huge blow to the fighters’ relatives and friends,” Piskarev said.
Under a draft proposal of the bill being considered by Russian officials on Friday, reporters also risk a fine of 5-million-ruble fine, around $44,740, if they publish what officials deem to be false information about Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The creation of the bill was proposed by Russia’s Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption and promptly approved on Monday by Chairman of the State Dum, Vyacheslav Volodin.
Volodin said he hoped the amendment could be passed quickly, saying in a statement on Thursday that “American social networks, controlled by Washington, launched an information war against Russia.”
“They violate their own rules, norms of international law, restrict freedom of speech [and] spread false information,” he said. “We cannot help but react to what is happening.”
Russia’s news coverage is closely monitored by President Vladimir Putin’s government, and Moscow has been quick to shut down and block media outlets that report outside of the narrative dictated by the Kremlin.
State media regulator Roskomnadzor has already shut down several media outlets since the invasion began, including Ekho Moskvy, Dozhd as well as Current Time’s website, a joint production of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
On Wednesday, Roskomnadzor allegedly threatened to block Voice of America (VOA)’s Russian-language website in the country unless it removes coverage of the situation in Ukraine.