RIA Novosti will be replaced by a new organisation run by Dmitry Kiselyov, a TV anchor known for his anti-opposition views.
President Vladimir Putin has abolished Russia’s main state news agency and replaced it with an organisation run by a man known for his pro-Kremlin and anti-gay views.
RIA Novosti will be replaced by a new outfit known as Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), headed by TV anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, who once caused outrage by saying homosexuals’ organs should not be used in transplants.
It is the second time in two weeks that Mr Putin, 61, has strengthened his grip on the country’s media following protests against his rule.
Last month, the Kremlin extended its radio and TV broadcasting interests when the media arm of state-controlled Gazprom bought mining tycoon Vladimir Potanin’s Profmedia.
Rossiya Segodnya will focus on “coverage abroad of Russian state policy and public life,” according to a decree signed by Mr Putin and published on the Kremlin website.
Sergei Ivanov, Mr Putin’s chief of staff, said the move will make state-owned media use budget funds “more rationally” and transmit the Kremlin’s political message abroad more effectively.
“Russia is following its own policy, firmly defending national interests, this is difficult to explain to the world but one can and must do it,” he said.
RIA Novosti described it as a push by the Kremlin to consolidate state media at a time of increasing online criticism of Mr Putin’s 13 years of rule.
“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,” it said in an English-language article.
Most Russian media outlets are already loyal to Mr Putin, and opponents get little air time.
The decree appears to have had little effect on the two other major Russian news agencies, state-run Itar-Tass, and the privately-run Interfax, but it could benefit both by making RIA’s replacement less of a competitor domestically.
A prominent member of parliament, Alexei Mitrofanov, described Mr Kiselyov as a “powerful propagandist” but said this was a good thing and he was suitable for the job.
Mr Kiselyov has proved a loyal Putin supporter as a TV presenter, at times making provocative remarks. He recently enraged Ukrainians with comments about the country’s recent pro-Europe protests.
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.
Rossiya Segodnya will be based in RIA Novosti’s headquarters in Moscow. The fate of its journalists and other employees was not immediately clear.
Source : sky news