Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a decree mandating the dissolution of RIA Novosti, the main state news agency, and its replacement with a new agency aimed at promoting Russia’s image. In an email interview, Jukka Pietiläinen, a senior researcher at the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki, Finland, with expertise in Russian media and journalism, explained the relationship between the state and the media in Putin’s Russia.
WPR: How has state involvement with media in Russia changed since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency?
Jukka Pietiläinen: The Russian state has increased its presence in the media significantly through several measures since the first presidency of Vladimir Putin. While Dmitri Medvedev’s presidency was a period in which political pressure on independent media did not increase, Putin’s return has led to the resumption of policies he launched during his first presidency. The state already controls most of the media that reach wide audiences—mainly television—while alternative voices can be heard in newspapers and magazines. Among the new trends is legislation limiting freedom of speech on issues such as sexual minorities, which has led to increased self-censorship among journalists. Limitations on foreign funding have also made civil society and independent media financially weaker and easier for the state to target with restrictions. The state media meanwhile get significant funding from the government, though they also publish advertisements.