Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti was shut down by President Vladimir Putin and replaced with a new agency meant to promote the country's image abroad, under the leadership of the controversial journalist Dmitry Kiselyov who was recently accused of anti-Western and anti-gay opinions.
RIA Novosti was one of Russia's most professional state media outlets appreciated by foreigners, and an official sponsor of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi as well. Putin signed an official effective-immediately decree dissolving the state-run news agency RIA Novosti and the state-owned Voice of Russia radio.
The act stipulates the fact that all of RIA Novosti's property will be transferred to “Russia Today” (Rossiya Segodonya) that will from now on provide “coverage of Russian state policy and public life in the federation,” run by conservative television anchor Kiselyov. The new leader is best known as the man who declared that the organs harvested from gay donors should be burned and not used.
On RIA Novosti's website the agency called the dissolution “the latest in a series of shifts in Russia's news landscape, which appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector.”
President Putin accused the now dissolved media trust of releasing biased coverage of Russia pressing the fact that Kremlin needs a separation from the “Anglo-Saxon monopoly of information,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Moreover, this move will help cut costs by building a smaller organization and protecting the national interests.
Putin's own hand-picked leader for Russia Today said that this move was taken for the purpose of “restoring a fair attitude towards Russia as an important country in the world with good intentions – that is the mission of the new structure that I will lead,” notes The Wall Street Journal.
The decree came as a surprise for RIA Novosti, without any previous notice or at least talks concerning this kind of issues. Even is the agency was known as a very objective one, Kremlin didn't agree with the coverage made to protests or opponents of the Putin regime.
Since Putin's presidency, Russia's media landscape changed towards a strong state-controlled industry with mainly national-run television and radio channels. The economic impact of RIA Novosti's liquidation seems to be overlooked, but employees expected something close to reality, but not as quite, after bigger budget cuts and tighter grasps were noticed every day.