Latvian broadcast regulator hits Russian channel with 3-month ban

Latvia's broadcast regulator the National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) said January 31 it would impose a three-month restriction on the re-broadcast of Russian TV channel Rossija RTR in Latvian territory.

"The Kremlin propaganda program's hate speech and incitement to war in the territory of Latvia will not be tolerated and this is a clear signal to unfriendly states and forces - we defend and will defend our informational space," said NEPLP Deputy Chairman Ivars Āboliņš in a statement.

Offenses were detected in the Rossija RTR program "Evening with Vladimir Solovyov" and "60 minutes". 

NEPLP cited a broadcast on May 22, 2018 that "explicitly and repeatedly voiced hate speech against parts of the Ukrainian state" including incitement to "hang and kill" certain Ukrianians.

NEPLP also cited an incident from more than a year ago, on January 11, 2018, when a "60 minutes" broadcast by Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky repeatedly called for military action on Ukrainian territory, and incitement to hatred against Ukrainians.

"It is irrelevant to which country or people in the world the hate speech or the incitement of war is directed, it is a violation of the law, against which NEPLP will act with due diligence," said NEPLP member Patriks Griva of the sanction.

The Council added that the purpose of restricting re-transmission is "to motivate foreign electronic media to comply with Latvian law in the future. Based on this goal, a reasonable suspension period of 3 months has been chosen."

NEPLP pointed out that Rossija RTR, despite being a Kremlin-supporting Russian-language channel, is actually registered in Sweden. Consequently it has sent notifications of its decision to the European Commission, and the Swedish Press and Broadcasting Authority.

NEPLP also used the announcement of the sanction to call upon Saeima for more funding, saying it wanted to create ten new posts to monitor broadcasts which it said "would enable a more effective fight against Russian propaganda."

It also suggested that the Lattelecom company should consider the appropriateness of including channels such as Rossija RTR among its offers to consumers.

The three month ban will come into effect the day after the sanction is published in Latvia's official gazette.

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