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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora