The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) have strongly condemned the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to abolish the country's state owned news agency RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia radio station.
According to media reports, in a decree published on the Kremlin's website on Monday, President Putin announced RIA Novosti would be replaced by a news agency called Russia Today, to be headed by polemical journalist and Kremlin support Dmitry Kiselev. The decree said Voice of Russia had also been closed, stating that the changes were effective immediately.
"We strongly condemn this absolutely scandalous move," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. This seemingly sinister action has removed RIA Novosti, a station that was accountable to the people of Russia and attempted to produce balanced reports, and replaced it with a news agency that it appears will become part of President Putin's propaganda machine. This is a deeply worrying situation for press freedom in Russia."
Reports says that Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration has stated that RIA Novosti is being restructured in order to make it more economical while increasing its reach. Ivanov was quoted as saying that the agency needs to make "more rational use of public money" and has to be more effective.
The Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ), which shares its building with RIA Novosti, has expressed its concern at the move and said that it is worried about the fate of the thousands of media workers and staff who work for the agency across the country.
"Given the suspicions of state propaganda, we are concerned for the future of the thousands of journalists and stringers currently employed by Ria Novisti," said EFJ President Mogens Blicher-Bjerregård. " It should be very clear how the new agency will continue its mission in terms of professionalism and jobs, and if they are not able to do that in confident way, it will damage the democracy as free journalism is a corner pillar in the development of the democracy."
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries