In a surprising and disturbing development only two months before the 2014 Winter Olympics descend on Sochi, Russian president Vladimir Putin has shut down Russia’s leading source for objective news, RIA Novosti, the main state news agency.
The news agency is to be replaced with a rabid propaganda entity headed by a man, Dmitri Kisilev (aka Dmitry Kiselyov, aka Kiselev), who recently said that gay accident victims should have their hearts burned, like vampires.
RIA Novosti covered its demise in typical, honest fashion:
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.
Putin’s move to put the stake through the heart of one of Russia’s only national news agencies that adheres to any kind of journalistic standards of objectivity comes after years of crackdown on domestic opposition, including a recent draconian increase in official attacks on gay and trans people in Russia.
Just this past summer, Putin signed into law a ban on gay “propaganda” that basically makes it illegal to be openly gay in Russia (unless you publicly proclaim that you hate yourself).
RIA Novosti, which had a reputation for reporting actual news in an objective honest manner (a rarity in Putin’s Russia), got into trouble last week for doing a story on Vladimir Putin’s historically low approval ratings. And now they’re gone.
What’s worse, Putin is creating a new entity called Russia Today (not to be confused, apparently, with the already-existing Kremlin-run English-language propaganda “news” agency by the same name (the old Russia Today, now called RT, is basically an anti-American rag).
And Putin has decided to put at the head of the new Russia Today, Dmitri Kiselev, a TV anchor who recently called for the hearts of gay accident victims to be burned.
“I think that just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. They should be banned from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”
Kisilev is – how shall I put this? – an unusual choice to be Russia’s new hetero-in-chief. Even in Russian, and at 5,000 miles distance, the man sets off my gaydar like few others can.
Watch Kisilev’s recent anti-gay rant, below, and note about 9 seconds in the way he says the word “mala” (meaning “small”). (You can see English subtitles if you click the “cc” subtitle button on the bottom right of the video.)
Also note the “you go girl!” shimmy of Kisilev’s shoulders and jaw at around 14 seconds in. (If the man is going to rant about the need to burn gay hearts, the fact that he comes across as a flaming closet-case is more than relevant.)
In a foreshadowing of things to come, RIA Novosti announced only a few months back that its Washington, DC bureau had been dismantled. At the time, I had concerns that Putin had finally caught on to the fact that RIA Novosti actually reported actual news, unlike its Soviet predecessors and modern-day brethren in Putin’s Russia.
Elder has more on the abominable state of the freedom of the press in Russia:
Now they are no more. The news agency is due to be shut down within three months, replaced by something called “Russia Today,” not to be confused with the Kremlin’s English-language TV channel of the same name. Under a second decree, the Kremlin named as its head Dmitry Kiselyov, perhaps the most propagandistic, anti-Western, pro-Putin “journalist” currently operating in Russia. (His only close competition for that distinction comes from Arkady Mamontov, who creates “documentaries” for state-run TV with the sole purpose of denouncing Putin’s perceived enemies.) Once a believer in objective journalism, Kiselev decided after experiencing Ukraine’s Orange Revolution firsthand that it was “absolutely uncalled for” in the post-Soviet space, and that Russian journalists’ job was to “create values.” He has led the state media’s campaign to downplay events in Kiev and has become the most public media figure calling for tougher anti-gay laws in Russia. “I think banning gay people from distributing propaganda to children is not enough,” Kiselyov said on TV last year. “I think they should be banned from donating blood or sperm, and if they die in a car crash, their hearts should be burnt or buried in the ground as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”
The space for free media in Russia has been steadily shrinking since Putin returned to the presidency last year and launched a crackdown to rein in unprecedented opposition to him, evincing an ever-growing paranoia. Kommersant, once a leading newspaper, last month removed a story from its website highlighting the fancy homes owned by government officials. Gazeta.ru, once a leading website, is now little more than yet another propaganda outfit. The strike against RIA is the most dramatic — Kiselyov’s appointment ensures it will become nothing short of rabid propaganda.
I just had to end with this, from a friend on Facebook writing of Dmitri Kisilev:
(I’m told that in order to actually see my Facebook posts in your Facebook feed, you need to “follow” me – so say the experts.)