Russia calls Voice of America radio "spam", takes it off air

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia has pulled the US-funded Voice of America radio station from the air, a senior state media official said Wednesday, calling it "spam on our airwaves."

Mr Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of the Rossiya Segodnya state media conglomerate, said a contract to broadcast Voice of America on AM radio would not be renewed.

"Rossiya Segodnya will not work with Voice of America," Mr Kiselyov said, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

The United States has targeted Mr Kiselyov for sanctions over his role in promoting Russia's annexation of Crimea. He presents a highly opinionated weekly news show on state television.

"It's as if they broadcast from the underworld. Or at least a world that no longer exists," Mr Kiselyov said of VOA and US-funded Radio Liberty, which still broadcasts in Russia through a partner station.

"I view these stations as spam on our airwaves," he said.

"It has nothing to do with freedom of speech" because there is "nothing original" on the stations, he said.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees US media, said last week that Mr Kiselyov had suspended all cooperation with Voice of America.

It said Mr Kiselyov sent VOA a letter with the single sentence, "we are not going to cooperate" and said the contract would not be renewed.

In 2006 Russian regulators forced national stations to stop broadcasting Voice of America shows, a move seen as politically motivated.

But the station continued to be broadcast in Moscow on a local AM radio frequency under an agreement with Voice of Russia, a state-owned station now controlled by Mr Kiselyov's conglomerate.

Radio Liberty, which is funded by US Congress, continues to exist in Russia for the time being in form of Radio Svoboda, which broadcasts through a partner station on FM and a popular website.

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