Russia announced today that it will shut down state media outlets RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia and roll them into the new Rossiya Segodnya. Oddly enough, RIA Novosti was the first to report a sad, sad account of its own imminent dissolution.
RIA Novosti writes that the decision is a sign of the Kremlin’s move towards even stricter control over the country’s media:
The move is 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.
Last month, the Kremlin shuttered news organization Rosbalt for posting YouTube videos containing swear words to its website, breaking President Vladimir Putin's law against the use of obscene language in media.
According to the BBC, Russian officials said the decision was made for economic reasons:
Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, has told journalists in Moscow that the news agency is being restructured in order to make it more economical while increasing its reach, Interfax reports. Mr. Ivanov was quoted as saying that the agency, which is being dissolved and reorganized as International News Agency Russia Today, needs to make "more rational use of public money" and that it has to be more effective.
Rossiya Segodnya translates to "Russia Today," but the new outfit will not be related to RT, the English-language news station that used to be know to as Russia Today, and is also funded by the government.
Last month, RIA Novosti launched round-the-clock coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. The decision to put Kiselev in charge of a new agency that will presumably take up coverage of the Games may be a move by Putin to ensure a sympathetic perspective ahead of the controversial event. Though RIA Novosti is state-run, it has a reputation for relatively balanced reporting. However, the ominous statement from a presidential spokesman that "we can do this, and we must do this" to "defend national interests" suggest that the freedom RIA did have will tightened.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, RIA Novosti has faced downsizing and layoffs over the past several months. Still, employees told THR that the announcement was a surprise.