News / Europe

Putin Dissolves State News Agency, Tightens Grip on Russia Media

FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
FILE - Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
Reuters
Vladimir Putin tightened his control over Russia's media on Monday by dissolving the main state news agency and replacing it with an organization that is to promote Moscow's image abroad.

The move to abolish RIA Novosti and create a news agency to be known as Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) is the second in two weeks strengthening Putin's hold on the media as he tries to reassert his authority after protests against his rule.

Most Russian media outlets are already loyal to Putin, and opponents get little air time, but the shake-up underlined their importance to Putin keeping power and the Kremlin's concern about the president's ratings and image.

The head of the new agency, to be built from the ashes of RIA Novosti, is a conservative news anchor, Dmitry Kiselyov, who once caused outrage by saying the organs of homosexuals organs should not be used in transplants.

Soviet-era throwback?

”The main focus of... Rossiya Segodnya is to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation,” said a decree signed by Putin.

Sergei Ivanov, the head of the presidential administration, told reporters that the changes were intended to save money and improve the state media.

But the new organisation has strong similarities to APN, a Soviet-era news agency whose role included writing articles about “the social-economic and cultural life of the Soviet people and items reflecting Soviet society's point of view on important internal and international events.”

RIA said in an English-language article about Putin's step: “The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia's news landscape which appear to point towards a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector.”

Rossiya Segodnya's focus on building up Russia abroad could solidify Putin's grip on information by further limiting sources of news for Russians whose TV screens are dominated by state-controlled channels.

Putin's decree appeared to have little effect on the two other major Russian news agencies, state-run Itar-Tass and private Interfax, but it could benefit both by making RIA's replacement less of a competitor domestically.

Itar-Tass is the successor of the Soviet official Tass agency, while Interfax has more leeway as a private agency but is restricted by the Kremlin's dominance.

News boss courts controversy

A prominent member of parliament, Alexei Mitrofanov, described Kiselyov as a “powerful propagandist” but said this was a good thing and that he was suitable for the job.

In his third term, after weathering protests led by urban liberals, the 61-year-old Putin has often appealed to conservatives and championed the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral guide for society.

Kiselyov has proved a loyal Putin supporter as a television presenter, at times making provocative remarks. In 2010 he said homosexuals should be banned from donating blood or sperm, and last year said they should also be banned from donating organs.

Putin has been Russia's dominant leader since he was first elected president in 2000. He began his third term in the Kremlin in May 2012 after stepping aside to serve for four years as prime minister because of constitutional limits.

The opposition staged big street protests against him for several months from December 2011, following a parliamentary election they said was rigged. The demonstrations have faded but Putin's popularity ratings have declined from their peak during his first two terms - from 2000 until 2008.

Tightening grip
 
The Kremlin extended its grip over radio and television broadcasting on November 26 when the media arm of state-controlled Gazprom bought mining tycoon Vladimir Potanin's Profmedia.

Through the deal, the ex-Soviet gas ministry - now Russia's largest firm by revenue - will add TV and radio stations, cinemas and film production and distribution assets to a sprawling portfolio built up around commercial channel NTV.

The Kremlin already funds an English-language TV channel called RT which was initially known as Russia Today. It is not clear whether the two will operate separately and RT's head, Margarita Simonyan, said she had been unaware of the move.

The new organization will be created in RIA Novosti's headquarters in central Moscow. The fate of its journalists and other employees was not immediately clear.

RIA Novosti was created as the Soviet Information Bureau in 1941, after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, and issues reports in Russian and foreign languages.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs