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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More