Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the closure of RIA Novosti, Russia’s major state-run news agency, as part of a reorganization of state-owned media assets. Also being closed is the state-owned Voice of Russia radio.
Both media organizations are to be absorbed into a new media conglomerate called Rossiya Segodnya, according to a decree on the changes that was posted on the Russian presidential website.
The head of the Russian presidential administration, Sergei Ivanov, told journalists on December 9 that the reorganization of RIA Novosti and several other state-run media outlets is aimed at improving cost-effectiveness and efficiency ahead of budget reductions in 2014 for state-run information resources.
But a news report by RIA Novosti on its own demise calls the closures “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.”
The head of Putin’s administration also said that Russia "must tell the truth and make it accessible to as many people as possible and use modern language and the best available technologies in doing so," as Russia is holding "an independent policy and unwaveringly protects its national interests."
A direct translation of “Rossiya Segodnya” is “Russia Today.” But RIA Novosti reports that the new Kremlin-run media conglomerate “will apparently be separate from RT, the Kremlin-funded English-language television channel original known as Russia Today.”
In a separate decree published on December 9, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov to head the new Rossiya Segodnya conglomerate.
Kiselyov is a prominent Russian television presenter and Russia’s veteran state media manager who recently became embroiled in a scandal over antigay remarks that he made on the air.
According to Putin's decree, Rossiya Segodnya will manage the property used by RIA Novosti at 4 Zubovsky Boulevard in Moscow.
The decree also says the core business of Rossiya Segodnya will be “the coverage of Russian state policy and public life in the Russian Federation” for foreign audiences.
The presidential decree also merges state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russian Newspaper) with the state-run Rodina (Motherland) magazine and closes Russia's Book Chamber -- with the property to be transferred to Russia's state-run ITAR-TASS news agency. And it liquidates the State Archive of Television and Radio Programs.
Putin has called for the Russian government to allocate necessary funds for the creation of the new media conglomerate within one month and to fully implement his decree within three months.
With reporting by Interfax and ITAR-TASS