President Vladimir Putin has signed the Executive Order On Measures to Raise Efficiency in the Work of State Mass Media Outlets, dissolving RIA Novosti, the country’s major state-run news agency, and establishing “Russia Today,” a news organization that will provide information on Russian state policy to audiences abroad.
The decree, effective December 9, initiates a shift in the reorganization of Russian media outlets, and both RIA Novosti and Voice Of Russia radio will be absorbed into the new International Information Agency Russia Today, which will be headed by newly appointed Dmitry Kiselev.
Kiselev is a well known conservative news anchor in Russia, who currently hosts a weekly show on Russian Television; he has made several extremely homophobic remarks which gained him international attention.
“I believe that imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda to minors is insufficient,” Kiselev is quoted as saying on his Historic Process show, in a segment dedicated to “Homosexual Propaganda.”
“They should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm and, in the case of a [fatal]road accident, their hearts should be either buried or cremated as unsuitable [rather than donated]for the prolongation of anybody’s life,” reported RT News.
His comments were met with applause.
In an interview with RT News, Kiselev said he had “enough gay friends” to not be labeled a homophobe, and said his remarks were a reference to international organ donation legislation which prohibits men who have had sex with other men (MSM) from donating blood or organ tissues.
According the United States Food and Drug Administration, “Men who have had sex with other men (MSM), at any time since 1977 (the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States) are currently deferred as blood donors. This is because MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.”
However, Kiselev’s comments, which were unnecessarily graphic and intentionally cutting, do not make a great case for his supposed “tolerance” of the gay community, and instead point to a marked bias against LGBT people.
His appointment as the new head of Russian News Media will more than likely result in even more vitriolic statements and negatively biased news coverage of the LGBT community in Russia, as well as tighter control of news coverage in the state.
“Russia has its own independent politics and strongly defends its national interests: it’s difficult to explain this to the world but we can do this, and we must do this,” Sergei Ivanov, Head of the Russian presidential administration told reporters on Monday, December 9.
The changes will be carried out within the next three months, and it is unclear whether the thousands employed by RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia radio will be employed under the newly formed news organization.
An email sent to the RIA Novosti staff in regards to the changes said a “liquidation committee” was being formed, but urged employees at the news agency to “remain calm.” Employees report they found out about the change through other news outlets, having not been informed prior to the public announcement made on December 9.
“When this news first appeared, everyone thought it was a joke,” Russian opposition activist and popular blogger Alexei Navalny wrote on his blog, according to American AlJazeera News.