NBC Ignores ‘Dangerous,’ ‘Scary’ Russian Law Criminalizing Accurate War Reporting

Early Friday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s stooges in parliament (known as the Duma) passed a law criminalizing accurate reporting about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a possible sentence of 15 years in jail. When it came to this actual and genuine attack on free, independent journalism, NBC’s Today omitted it from their Friday morning show.

Whether they didn’t think they had time or skipped it because of their presence in Russia, it was ironic considering the liberal media-wide screeching about the press being under assault from Donald Trump (though no law was passed and no journalist was imprisoned).

In contrast, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS Mornings took this story seriously. ABC foreign correspondent James Longman spoke on Wednesday’s show ahead of its passage, revealing Russia’s spy agency the FSB has “come” by visit ABC’s team.

“[I]t’s worrying for us. It’s more worrying, I have to say, for our Russian colleagues here for ABC who work here in Moscow. It is terrifying for them to see Russia change in this way,” he added.

Longman said Friday after its passage that “concern is just growing” with the law presenting “a serious situation” and jail sentences for simply reporting “news they don’t agree with.”

Noting that “[i]t is a major attack on free press,” Longman read from the law and said it “could go into effect as early as tomorrow morning” (click “expand”):

LONGMAN: According to the government, it’s been introduced to target those who “knowingly distort the purpose, role, and tasks of Russian armed forces during special military and other operations.” Now, they had banned the use of the words war and invasion. But now, journalists in this country face the prospect of a much wider-ranging law, which could land them lengthy jail sentences. Free media has been under attack for many years here. But we are starting to see the complete dismantling of independent press in Russia. Moscow’s last independent TV station went off air this week in the face of such draconian measures. The state’s censorship office has now blocked the BBC Russian language service. That is a huge source of independent news here. Facebook and other social media sites also look like they’re being purposefully slowed down or blocked. Now, we’re not sure what this all means for foreign news reporting, but the laws passed today could go into effect as early as tomorrow morning, Cecilia.

CECILIA VEGA: A troubling development.

In the 7:30 a.m. Eastern half-hour, co-host George Stephanopoulos gave this a sentence in a bottom-of-the-hour news brief, saying it was “a new media crackdown on reporters.”

Over on CBS Morning, co-host Gayle King said “Russian lawmakers passed a law introducing jail terms for anyone who publishes so-called fake information about the country’s armed forces” with it coming as “most Russians are unaware of what is really happening.”

After King added that “[i]t’s really jaw-dropping to hear what the Russian people are being told about what is really happening,” correspondent Mary Ilyushina said from Moscow that “[t]he law is particularly scary” given the jail term for stating factually accurate information.

Ilyushina cited the shuttering of two of the few remaining independent Russian outlets (as Longman also did) and then pointed to the fact that the Kremlin doesn’t even “allow” the words “invasion or war” to be used to describe what’s being done to Ukraine.

Reiterating that the Kremlin line has been Russian forces are engaged in a special military “operation,” Ilyushina shared the stunning reality that, in Russia, “state-run media has also never acknowledged the bombardment of Kyiv, Kharkiv, or other cities outside the Donbass area.”

She said thousands of Russians have been arrested as part of mass protests, so it’s proof “many Russians…see through this message thanks to the use of a VPN, but others can’t.

And, for them, Ilyushina concluded by saying that “they’re being left without a comprehensive picture of what is going on[.]”

While NBC chose to skip this, its sister channel MSNBC briefly mentioned it twice during Morning Joe (with the second being a taped repeat of the first time).

To see the relevant transcripts from March 2 and 4, click “expand.”

ABC’s Good Morning America
March 2, 2022
7:35 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Happening Now; Tensions Rising Inside Russia; Kremlin Cracks Down on Media as Sanctions Target Oligarchs]

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And, James, we’ve seen Putin cracking down on the independent Russian television stations. Are you feeling any pressure? 

JAMES LONGMAN: Well, George, I have to say, we had a number of times the FSB come here, the security services. That doesn’t normally happen to our position. This law that outlaws help for foreign groups, makes it treason essentially — it’s worrying for us. It’s more worrying, I have to say, for our Russian colleagues here for ABC who work here in Moscow. It is terrifying for them to see Russia change in this way. George? 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Oh, it certainly is.

(….)

March 4, 2022
7:07 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: New Developments; Kremlin’s New Media Crackdown; Russian Parliament Passes Law Over Coverage of Ukraine War]

T.J. HOLMES: We turn now to that breaking news overnight. Russia’s parliament, passing a new law, bringing a new media crackdown. Our foreign correspondent James Longman has more from Moscow. James, we were talking to you just this week and you expressed serious concern for our Russian colleagues there. 

JAMES LONGMAN: Yeah, absolutely, T.J. and that concern is just growing. This is a serious situation developing here. Russia’s parliament has unanimously passed legislation that makes fake news a crime, punishable by up to 15 years in jail. That’s news they don’t agree with. It is a major attack on free press. According to the government, it’s been introduced to target those who “knowingly distort the purpose, role, and tasks of Russian armed forces during special military and other operations.” Now, they had banned the use of the words war and invasion. But now, journalists in this country face the prospect of a much wider-ranging law, which could land them lengthy jail sentences. Free media has been under attack for many years here. But we are starting to see the complete dismantling of independent press in Russia. Moscow’s last independent TV station went off air this week in the face of such draconian measures. The state’s censorship office has now blocked the BBC Russian language service. That is a huge source of independent news here. Facebook and other social media sites also look like they’re being purposefully slowed down or blocked. Now, we’re not sure what this all means for foreign news reporting, but the laws passed today could go into effect as early as tomorrow morning, Cecilia.

CECILIA VEGA: A troubling development. Okay, James, thank you.

(….)

7:30 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Right Now; War in Ukraine]

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And Russia’s parliament has now passed a new law bringing a new media crackdown on reporters there.

————————–

CBS Mornings
March 4, 2022
7:09 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Putin’s Media Crackdown; Russia Outlaws Spread of Military Information Not From Kremlin]

GAYLE KING: As the war in Ukraine grinds on, most Russians are unaware of what is really happening. Amid a new crackdown by President Putin on the few remaining independent media outlets, this morning, Russian lawmakers passed a law introducing jail terms for anyone who publishes so-called fake information about the country’s armed forces. Mary Ilyushina is in Moscow for more on this story. Mary, good morning to you. It’s really jaw-dropping to hear what the Russian people are being told about what is really happening. 

MARY ILYUSHINA: Good morning. Yeah, absolutely. This law is particularly scary because it carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison for journalists or other people who are spreading information — military information that the Kremlin deems to be untrue. At least two independent outlets have been taken off air this week after officials accused them of reporting false information, which means basically anything that is not being published by official Russian sources. The Kremlin will not allow the fighting in Ukraine to be referred as an invasion or war. The Russian state media tightly controls the broadcast to millions of Russians, repeating Putin’s claim that this is a defensive operation to protect Russia against what he calls Ukrainian aggression. And state-run media has also never acknowledged the bombardment of Kyiv, Kharkiv, or other cities outside the Donbass area. And, of course, there are many Russians who see through this message and they see through the state reporting, and they’re taking to the streets. According to a Russian rights group, more than 8,000 protesters have been arrested across the country. But, of course, Russians can still access some independent sources via VPN or to go online and try to search for it. This is what I’m doing, and a lot of journalists do here as well. But for people who just don’t know how to do that or are not that savvy, they’re being left without a comprehensive picture of what is going on in Ukraine.

TONY DOKOUPIL: Mary Ilyushina for us in Moscow. Mary, thank you so much.

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