By Paul Goble
On June 6, a Kaliningrad court ruled that a local media outlet could not use information about burials of soldiers who had died in Ukraine that had been gathered from family members or friends but only information provided by the official sources, a ruling that has become a precedent for similar actions in other regions.
Because people know about funerals and are prepared to talk to journalists about them, the journalists can come up with far more accurate and frequent assessments of combat losses than they can if they are forced to rely on official announcements. Since Putin’s war in Ukraine began, those have been infrequent and fragmentary (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/21502).
What this means, Yekaterina Vasyukova of The New Times says, is that “certain information even from official sources has been identified as a state secret, for example, data about soldiers who have died.” Any journalist who uses it is thus at risk of being tried and sentenced for discrediting the Russian military.
And that in turn means, she continues, that the veil of military secrecy has been thrown over information that otherwise could be relatively easily gathered and disseminated and that journalists especially in the regions now have to worry about being punished for doing what is after all their jobs.
Some may continue to act as they have but most are likely to change course, effectively shutting off as the Kremlin obviously intends a source of information on which many Russians and even more people abroad have relied to make assessments about the true costs of Putin’s war in Ukraine.