Back in the USSR
What does it say about the state of Russia today when the official state news agency is dissolved to make way for another that presumably will toady up more reliably to President Vladimir Putin?
RIA Novosti, which had acquired a certain credibility for fact-based reporting, must have been too credible and too serious for its government sponsor.
So with a flick of his pen, Putin dissolved RIA Novosti and announced the creation of Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) to be headed by former news anchor Dmitry Kiselyov, a Putin loyalist and unrepentant homophobe (who has made public comments demanding homosexuals be banned from donating organs for transplants).
Reporting on its own demise, RIA said in its English-language version of Putin’s actions, “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.”
Putin’s decree said the main focus of Rossiya Segodnya “is to highlight abroad the state policy and public life of the Russian Federation.”
Just what the world — and Russia — needs more of: propaganda. Russian media is already replete with happy talk and trivia passing for “news.” Its television programming — which remains influential in all Russian-speaking elements of the old Soviet Union, including Central Asia — gives new meaning to the old term “vast wasteland.”
Is it any wonder that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have taken to the streets — and tore down a statue of Lenin last weekend — to protest the turn toward Moscow of their own president? The old Soviet handwriting is on the wall. But a generation raised with new freedoms and new ways of communicating wants no part of it.
An American president who actually stood for American values would hear their pleas and tell them they still have a friend in the United States.