Vladimir Putin Just Replaced Russia's Best State-Run News Outlet With a State-Run PR Firm

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 9 2013 11:44 AM

Vladimir Putin Just Replaced Russia's Best State-Run News Outlet With a State-Run PR Firm

453085777
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks as he attends signing ceremony together with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarksian in Yerevan, on December 2, 2013

Photo by Karen Minasyan/AFP/Getty Images

Of all the state-owned media outlets in Russia, RIA Novosti stood largely alone in its willingness to challenge the Kremlin. I use the past-tense there because, as of today, the well-known and relatively well-respected news wire is no longer. In a surprise move even by Russian standards, Vladimir Putin announced this morning that the government is shuttering RIA Novosti and replacing it with a new state-run outlet that will serve largely as a PR firm for the government—or, in Putin's own words, "to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation."

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The Kremlin is framing the media reorganization—which will also shutter Voice of Russia radio—as an effort to cut costs and make "more rational use of public money." But as RIA Novosti, reporting on its own demise, more accurately put it: the changes "appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector." As a state-run media outlet, RIA Novosti still had to tread carefully when covering the government that paid its bills but it nonetheless "made the greatest attempt to produce balanced coverage in recent years," according to BBC Moscow correspondent Daniel Sandford.

Advertisement

The move appears to have come out of nowhere. RIA Novosti is (or, I suppose was) an official sponsor of the Sochi Winter Olympics, and there was no public debate or even hint that the move was coming before today's official decree. Much of its staff was apparently unaware they'd be out of a job until the news was published on a government website.

"Rossiya Segodnya" translates to "Russia Today," the original name of the highly questionable Kremlin-funded, English-language television station since rebranded as RT. The network is known for what the New York Times calls its "jaundiced view of the failings of the United States and other Western countries." (Putin made no mention of the English-language network in today's announcement.)

In case there weren't enough red flags already, Putin named Dmitry Kiselyov as the head of the new media outlet. (The new agency’s directors will be directly appointed by the president's office.) For those unfamiliar with Kiselyov, he's made a career as a pro-Putin propagandist who sees foreign conspiracies against Moscow almost anywhere he looks. His most infamous comments, however, were made last year about gays and lesbians. "I think it is too little to fine gays for homosexual propaganda," Kiselyov said during one of his TV appearances. "They should be forbidden from donating blood, sperm. And in the case of an automobile accident, their hearts should be buried in the ground or burned."

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

The U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS in Syria Will Probably Benefit America’s Other Enemies

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

It’s Not Easy for Me, but I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 23 2014 10:55 AM This Isn’t the Syria Intervention Anyone Wanted
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 23 2014 10:03 AM Watch Steve Jobs Tell Michael Dell, "We're Coming After You"
  Life
The Vault
Sept. 23 2014 10:24 AM How Bad Are Your Drinking Habits? An 18th-Century Temperance Thermometer Has the Verdict.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 9:42 AM Listen to the Surprising New Single From Kendrick Lamar
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 10:51 AM Is Apple Picking a Fight With the U.S. Government? Not exactly.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google CEO: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.