The Committee to Protect Journalists Thursday came out strongly against a new edict from Russian President Vladimir Putin extending a ban on coverage of military casualty figures.
The decree extends the ban to special operators in peacetime, and punishes violations with up to 20 years in prison, CPJ says, citing local press reports.
CPJ sees the move as keeping a lid on Russia's role in the Ukraine.
"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 in a statement. "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."
CPJ says that reporters who have tried to investigate reports of Russian soldiers killed in fighting in Ukraine—which Russia denies it is doing—have been threatened and attacked.