New York, May 28, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s presidential decree that extends a ban on coverage of military casualty figures to “peacetime, during special operations,” as well as in wartime. Such coverage, deemed to be disclosure of state secrets, is punishable by prison terms up to 20 years, according to local press reports.
“Today’s decree is clearly aimed at silencing those journalists who have defied the Russian propaganda machine to investigate the possible deaths of Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian conflict, in which Russia denies participation,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on President Vladimir Putin to stop erecting smokescreens and allow the media to do its job–which is to tell the people of Russia, Ukraine, and the world what is actually happening in the region.”
Journalists who have tried to investigate reports of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine have been threatened and attacked, according to CPJ research. Critics say that today’s decree, which bans publishing military casualties during undefined “special operations” in peace time, could be interpreted as any military action. Disclosing such figures during wartime was already banned under Russian law.