After focusing on the offline media, Russian president Vladimir Putin is now turning his attention to the Internet:
As the Kremlin gears up for the election of Putin's successor next March, Soviet-style controls are being extended to online news after a presidential decree last month set up a new agency to supervise both mass media and the Web.
``It's worrying that this happened ahead of the presidential campaign,'' Roman Bodanin, political editor of Gazeta.ru, Russia's most prominent online news site, said in a telephone interview. ``The Internet is the freest medium of communication today because TV is almost totally under government control, and print media largely so.''
All three national TV stations are state-controlled, and the state gas monopoly, OAO Gazprom, has been taking over major newspapers; self-censorship is routine. That has left the Internet as the main remaining platform for political debate, and Web sites that test the boundaries of free speech are already coming under pressure.
In December, a court in the Siberian region of Khakassia shut down the Internet news site Novy Fokus for not registering as a media outlet. The site, known for its critical reporting, reopened in late March after it agreed to register and accept stricter supervision.