President Putin dissolved the state-run news agency RIA Novosti Monday in a move that was described as an attempt to tighten his control over the media.
RIA Novosti will be disbanded but a new state run agency called Rossiya Segodnya will be formed in the same headquarters. Rossiya Segodnya translates as Russia Today, the original name of the Kremlin’s English language cable network which distributes itself via You Tube and in some hotels in the United States.
So far no connection has been drawn between the newly formed news agency and the cable network which was rebranded as RT several years ago. RT is known for being openly hostile to the US and the west, sometimes comically so. The channel supported the Occupy movement and granted a show to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
A government spokesman told RIA Novosti, for a report it produced on its own demise, that the reorganization was a cost cutting measure. But the NY Times reports that RIA Novosti was considered the most independent of the state run news agencies. The Times quotes Russian TV personality Maxim Shevchenko saying of the decision “The nest of anti-Russian media forces has been destroyed.”
Another issue arising from the announcement today is the decision to place controversial TV executive Dmitry Kiselyov in charge of the replacement news agency. Kiselyov has been criticized in the past for some anti-gay comments including the suggestion that gays should not be allowed to donate organs. He once said “in the case of an automobile accident, their hearts should be buried in the ground or burned.”
RIA Novosti was originally created in 1941 as the Soviet Information Bureau. It was an arm of Soviet propaganda but has since grown into a news agency with reporters in 45 countries.