Russia promotes young editor to head new state agency

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's new state media agency aimed at promoting Moscow's views in the West on Tuesday appointed as its chief editor a staunchly pro-Kremlin young female journalist who currently heads the state-run RT English-language channel.

President Vladimir Putin unleashed a wave of controversy in early December by dissolving Russia's venerable RIA Novosti news agency and replacing it with a new company called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today).

Mr Putin added fuel to the fire by also appointing Mr Dmitry Kiselyov - a controversial figure known for openly anti-gay and anti-US views - as the new outlet's general director.

The station said on Tuesday that its news content will be overseen as editor-in-chief by Ms Margarita Simonyan - the 33-year-old head of the state's RT foreign-language network that is primarily aimed at audiences in Europe and the United States.

She has already earned renown for her aggressive promotion of the sometimes controversial RT and being unafraid to spar with anti-Kremlin critics on Twitter.

Ms Simonyan will also keep her current position as head of RT. The television company was itself once known as Russia Today before switching its name.

Many commentators believe Russia Today is being formed with the primary aim of serving as a Kremlin propaganda vehicle similar to the APN state news agency that existed in Soviet times.

"In Soviet times, APN was a way of propagandising Soviet life abroad. And no one ever renounced the need for propaganda... if only in a slightly more complex and refined way," ITAR-TASS state news agency director Sergei Mikhaylov said in an interview published on the RIA Novosti website.

RIA Novosti was always officially a state-owned news agency. But it often featured editorials from more independent writers and politicians than those aired in other government-run media outlets.

It still remains unclear what will happen to RIA Novosti's Russian-language reporters when Russia Today is formally launched in March.

Mr Kiselyov was cited by RIA Novosti on Tuesday as saying that the new Kremlin propaganda vehicle will be openly advocating a particular slant on news.

"In my opinion, journalists should take a position (on issues)," Mr Kiselyov said.

"The main differences between post-Soviet reporters and Western ones is that we have to create new values, where is they simply write about existing ones," the Russia Today director added.

Ms Simonyan had previously worked as one of the Kremlin pool reporters for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK) - the main state television and radio organisation.

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