Morning Update on Russia and Ukraine

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Russia’s media blackout

So what’s going on inside Russia as Russian soldiers continue their invasion of Ukraine?

What’s Russian President Vladimir Putin thinking? How do Russian citizens feel about the war? How are the economic sanctions impacting the country? How are the sanctions impacting everyday people? What might Russia do next?

Sadly and alarmingly, we don’t really know because Putin has signed a new censorship law that has essentially made it illegal for news organizations to independently report the accurate details of Russia’s war with Ukraine. That includes not even referring to it as a “war.”

It’s Putin’s obvious attempt to control the message. Any journalist who reports what the Russian government considers “fake news” about the war could be punished with up to 15 years in prison.

In this case, no news is really bad news.

Most news outlets with journalists inside Russia have either suspended their operations or are filing reports minus reporters’ bylines and datelines. That includes, but is not limited to, those from the major and cable news networks, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, which said on Friday that among its top priorities are “the safety of our employees and covering this important story fairly and fully.”

“Those correspondents are basically in a holding pattern,” CNN’s Brian Stelter said on his show “Reliable Sources.”

Of course, these new laws also are directed — perhaps even more so — at Russian journalists. We’ve seen several independent journalism outlets inside of Russia shut down because of their inability to accurately report what’s going on.

Ivan Kolpakov, editor-in-chief of Meduza, one of Russia’s most popular independent media outlets, told The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison, “Our sources say they are likely to use this against journalists. They can use it against journalists, and why wouldn’t they? They decided to destroy the industry entirely.”

On “Reliable Sources,” Robert Mahoney, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said, “They can’t report on the war anymore. They can’t call a war ‘the war.’ And many of those independent journalists have fled to neighboring countries. One of them I spoke with today said basically, ‘The Russian media is dead.’”

Russia also has cut off Facebook. Nick Clegg — president of global affairs for Facebook’s parent company, Meta — tweeted, “Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out. We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action.”

The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman said on CNN that he couldn’t remember a time this has ever happened to this extent, saying, “This has become a sealed room.”

Friedman went on to point out how valuable news coverage is during a war — that even political leaders get information seen on, say, CNN. So not only is Russia’s mandate keeping its citizens in the dark about many of the things going on in Ukraine, but Putin is actually keeping himself and his leaders in the dark, as well.

And that might be the scariest thing of all.

Powerful reportng

Fox News had examples over the weekend of the hardships Ukrainians are facing getting out of the country.

In one report, a woman named ​​Yana told Fox News’ Alex Hogan about her journey from Ukraine to Poland: “I took all four kids. All roads were closed. We had to go through fields. We got on a crowded train for Lviv. The train took 22 hours. People were lying on the floor.”

Meanwhile, Fox News’ Trey Yingst, who is in Ukraine, tweeted, “We don’t talk enough about the decisions civilians are forced to make during war. People leave their entire lives behind. They don’t know if they’ll ever return home.”

He continued, “It’s the little things too. Things we take for granted. Having a routine, feeling calm and knowing when you’ll get your next meal. These are the things that war takes from innocent people. And mental health. Imagine one week you’re at home. Your life feels relatively normal. The next week your city is literally on fire with bombs raining from the sky. That’s what the Ukrainian population is facing today. That level of trauma often sticks with people for life.”

Touching moment

CNN’s Clarissa Ward has shown time and again her brave and exemplary reporting skills covering dangerous situations, including remarkable work over the past two weeks in Ukraine. She is an elite reporter.

She also is a human being.

During a report over the weekend, Ward stopped to help elderly civilians in Ukraine. While talking to anchor John Berman, Ward said, “These people have been under bombardment for seven straight days and are only just leaving their homes, and they’re leaving them reluctantly. And they’re leaving them with the knowledge that they might not be able to go back to them. And you can see many of these people are elderly.”

Ward helped them across some unstable ground.

Later, she stopped to help an elderly woman carry her bag, saying, “I’m just going to help her carry this bag a second. Excuse me, John.”

She carried the bag, comforted the women briefly and continued her excellent reporting throughout.

Tweet of the day

Pope Francis tweeted on Sunday, “I would also like to thank the journalists who put their lives at risk to provide information. Thank you, brothers and sisters, for this service that allows us to be close to the tragedy of that population and enables us to assess the cruelty of a war. #Ukraine #Peace.”

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