Devastating news this week for press freedom with the shocking announcement that RIA Novosti, one of the most reputable and reliable state-approved news agencies, will be shut down and replaced with a new state-friendly organ, Rossia Segodnya (Russia Today). Even worse, the new enterprise is to be headed by Dmitry Kiselyov (or Kiselev), an openly homophobic and chauvinistic propagandist with long-term affiliations with the Kremlin, who openly supports its more right-wing policies.
Kiselyov was in the spotlight this week not just for the news of his appointment, but because of his propagandist shenanigans in relation to the anti-government protests in Ukraine. It’s no secret that the Kremlin is mobilising to quash any possibility of anti-state sentiment bleeding over into the Russian psyche, but even so, Kiselyov really laid it on thick this week. So much so that a protester in Kiev stormed his live broadcast earlier this week, offering him an Oscar for his ‘lies and nonsense’ (including his insistence that protesters in Kiev had provoked the police into poisoning them with tear gas).
The Economist discusses this week’s media scandal, and traces Kiselyov’s stance back to his days working at a pro-Ukrainian government channel during the Orange Revolution. Essential reading.
This was not Mr Kiselev’s first Ukrainian crusade. A decade ago, he was working on one of the pro-government Ukrainian channels, slandering the Orange revolution that had deprived Viktor Yanukovych of his rigged victory. Russia’s current propaganda is all the more striking in contrast to Ukraine’s own television coverage. Most of the channels, owned by Ukranian oligarchs, have been reporting the protests objectively, defying orders from the top. Andrei Kluyev, the secretary of the national security council, summoned owners of TV channels and told them to stop showing Maidan protests and switch to the government side, but they plainly told him to keep off.
The sad irony is that the Russian channel is part of a state media empire run by Oleg Dobrodeev, who was one of the bright stars of television during the Perestroika years. He was in charge of news and current affairs on NTV, Russia’s first private television channel, which began broadcasting 20 years ago under the slogan “news is our profession”.
The full piece is here.