New York Times pulling journalists from Russia over censorship law passed after Ukraine invasion

The New York Times Building in New York City on February 1, 2022.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

The New York Times is temporarily pulling its journalists out of Russia due to safety concerns and a harsh new censorship law passed after that country’s invasion of Ukraine, the newspaper said Tuesday.

The move comes after a number of other Western media outlets, including CNN, Bloomberg News and the BBC, had said they will no longer issue reports from Russia because of the threat of being prosecuted for covering the attack. The BBC said Tuesday that after “careful deliberation” it would resume English language reporting from Russia on Tuesday evening.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed a law that threatens journalists with up to 15 years in prison for using words such as “war” and “invasion” to describe Russia’s actions against Ukraine, or otherwise spreading what the law euphemistically refers to as “false information” about that invasion.

“Russia’s new legislation seeks to criminalize independent, accurate news reporting about the war against Ukraine,” Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said in an emailed statement to CNBC on Tuesday.

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“For the safety and security of our editorial staff working in the region, we are moving them out of the country for now,” Rhoades Ha said.

“We look forward to them returning as soon as possible while we monitor the application of the new law. We will continue our live, robust coverage of the war, and our rigorous reporting on Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and these attempts to stifle independent journalism,” she said.

Cliff Levy, a Times deputy managing editor, said in tweets that as a former Moscow bureau chief for the paper he was “saddened” to report the withdrawal of his colleagues from Russia, which, “[e]ven in the depths of the Cold War, under the Soviet dictatorship … never happened.”

In a tweet, Levy linked to a message to Times staff from assistant managing editor Michael Slackman announcing the withdrawal.

“We have had a team of journalists in Ukraine and the region bearing witness to the unfolding conflict,” Slackman wrote to the staff. He said that team is supported by bureaus worldwide and the Times newsroom in New York.

“I am grateful for the bravery, grit, and incredible work of our team on the ground, as they uphold our essential mission of reporting on this war without fear or favor,” he wrote.

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