WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today released the following statement on the elimination of press freedom in Russia following Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
“Freedom of the press is a foundational pillar of democracy, and as such, an active threat to Vladimir Putin. In the two weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin has brazenly focused on eliminating any last shred of free press and freedom of expression inside Russia. He has threatened 15 years in prison for anyone who accurately calls the invasion a war, forcing both Russian and international media outlets, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, to suspend, curtail, or censor their reporting. He has shut down independent media outlets, including TV Rain and Ekho Moskvy, in a desperate effort to undermine objectivity and keep the truth about his illegal and unjustified war from the Russian people. He has further suffocated an already limited civil society by blocking Russians’ access to Facebook and limiting access to Instagram and other U.S.-based social media companies. He has unleashed a disinformation campaign to promote outlandish conspiracies and propaganda against Ukraine. And as journalists are wounded and killed by Russian forces in Ukraine, Putin is also targeting brave dissenters inside of Russia for daring to speak up against his authoritarian overreach.
“The Russian people deserve to know the truth about Putin’s war and to speak freely without fear of arrest. Putin is a murderous dictator waging a dangerous war, killing innocent civilians, and committing war crimes. Today, more than ever, we stand with the brave journalists in Russia and around the world for their tireless work to shine a light on what’s happening in Ukraine so Putin and his cronies can be held to account.”