The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement Friday raising alarm about Russia’s recent adoption of a punitive “fake news” law. According to the experts, the law places Russia under a “total information blackout” on the war.
The Russian parliament had unanimously voted for certain amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, which President Vladimir Putin signed on March 4. The federal law introduced criminal liability for the public dissemination of “deliberately misleading information” and “discrediting the use of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.”
The government claimed that the purpose of introducing this amendment was to protect the truth about “special military operation in Ukraine.” According to the UN experts, the government was actually giving an official seal of approval to disinformation and misinformation. This law has led to the shutdown or suspension of activities of some national media outlets.
Last week, the Russian parliament had issued sanctions against “foreigners who infringe on the rights of Russian citizens.” This led to the blocking of the BBC website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in the country. The OHCHR statement said:
These restrictions on media and access to information online choking the last vestiges of independent, pluralistic media in Russia, but they are also depriving the population of their right to access diverse news and views at this critical time when millions of Russians legitimately want to know more about the situation in Ukraine.
The independent human rights experts, which include some Special Rapporteurs, claimed these recent activities of the Russian government to be a clear violation of the right to information and freedom of expression. They further called on the independent international commission of inquiry to investigate and ensure accountability for violations and abuses.