American news networks go dark in Russia

AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky

If you flip on the news today, you might notice something a bit different. Most of the major news networks will not be cutting away to their reporters in Moscow or any other locations inside of Russia. That’s because those news teams have gone dark. On top of every other maniacal thing that Vladimir Putin has already done, the dictator announced yesterday that any journalists who report anything other than state-approved (false) stories about the situation in Ukraine would be arrested and sentenced to up to three to fifteen years in prison. And the new law would apply to foreign journalists as well. As a result, most of the big American media teams pulled the plug. (NY Post)

Several major news networks said they would stop broadcasting from Russia Friday after Moscow moved to imprison journalists who publish stories that deviate from President Vladimir Putin’s false war narrative.

CBS News, ABC News, CNN, Bloomberg, the BBC and the CBC announced they were curbing their coverage in Russia amid the country’s crackdown on news and free speech.

“Because of the new censorship law passed in Russia today, some Western networks including ABC News are not broadcasting from the country tonight,” ABC News said in a statement to The Post.

Right up front, I’ll just say that I’m not going to fault any of these networks for their decisions in this matter. You can say what you will about how some of them cover politics and social issues back in the United States (and I’ve had plenty to say about that in the past, believe me), but their foreign correspondents in Russia and Ukraine are literally risking their lives and freedom to bring reports of what’s going on over there to the world. That’s particularly true in Ukraine, where one news crew was almost taken out in an ambush yesterday by a Russian death squad.

So in Ukraine, we have reporters dodging the Russian military while in Russia they are on the run from the police. Even with all of the craziness we’ve already witnessed, I’ll confess to being both shocked and disturbed by this turn of events. Have we really reached the point where Putin would allow foreign journalists to be plucked off of the streets and thrown in prison for simply doing their jobs? Such a thing should have remained unthinkable, but the old rules don’t seem to apply anymore.

Putin is acting more and more unbalanced, a situation that is more than worrisome when you consider the nuclear arsenal he’s sitting on. But there may be a verifiable scientific reason for all of this. This morning, I noticed an exclusive thread on Twitter from Tim McMillan, who has been monitoring the situation closely from Germany. He claims that a well-placed source in American intelligence confirmed to him that we have data showing that Putin literally is suffering from mental illness and the problem likely has a “physical component” to it. Tim’s sources in both the military and intelligence communities have been very reliable over the years, so I tend to think this will prove to be authentic.

If confirmed, Mad Vlad may turn out to be even more seriously mad than we had feared. In the United States, we have the 25th Amendment to fall back on if one of our leaders goes dangerously around the bend in terms of mental health. The Russians don’t appear to have such an option at their disposal. And even if they did, I would imagine that most of the people close enough to Putin to exercise it would be terrified to make the attempt. Insert the standard disclaimer here about having lived to see interesting times.