Latvia blasts Russian Duma in row over media

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There was little sign of Christmas goodwill between Russia and Latvia December 23 with Latvia angrily rebutting an earlier statement by the Russian State Duma and saying Russia has "neither moral nor the political or legal right to comment" on Latvian affairs.

According to the TASS news agency, Russia's parliament, the State Duma, had earlier in the day raised a fuss about alleged violations of freedom of speech and harassment of journalists in Latvia employed either directly or indirectly by the Russian state on outlets such as the Sputnik infotainment portal. 

"The statement issued on 23 December 2020 by the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation on media in Latvia is based on groundless propagandistic cliché-ridden accusations concerning Latvia’s domestic affairs," said a counter-statement by the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We call on the State Duma of Russia to urgently address the problems with violations of human rights and freedoms in its own country.  For instance, the State Duma could investigate, without further delay, the incident of the poisoning of Russian politician, Alexei Navalny, and the role of the Russian Federal Security Service in it," the MFA added.

"A state that cannot control its own security services or, in the best traditions of the Stalinist era, uses them to eliminate its political opponents and suppress civil freedoms has neither moral nor the political or legal right to comment on domestic processes of democratic states. Besides, Russia also imposes restrictions on the freedom of its civil society on a regular basis by banning and censoring the media and the internet. The increasing crackdown on other public activists and human rights defenders as well as communications with this kind of content do not contribute to the improvement of either the situation in Russia, or Russia’s image internationally," it continued.

The Latvian MFA then pointed out that freedom of speech and the security of journalists is "especially critical" in Russia.

"Russia ranks 149th among 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index for 2020 compiled by the Reporters Without Borders, while Latvia has traditionally been among the 25 countries around the globe with the highest scores on media independence and journalist security," the Ministry said.

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