Media watchdog fines independent Russian 'TV Rain' EUR 10,000

The National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) has imposed a €10,000 penalty on the Russian independent TV channel “TV Rain” (“Дождь”/“ Dozhdj”), NEPLP President Ivars Āboliņš said on Twitter December 2.

NEPLP fined TV Rain for displaying a map in which occupied Crimea was marked as Russian territory and for calling the Russian army “our army” in a piece that mentioned how viewers could help provide recruits to the illegal invasion force with supplies and equipment.

The media supervisor noted that this was the second major violation of “TV Rain” in recent months. The NEPLP is entitled to cancel the channel's broadcast license completely if a third major infringement takes palce, warned Āboliņš.

An administrative infringement case has been brought against TV Rain on the story of alleged support for the Russian army. TV Rain explained that the administrative violation case involved calling on viewers to share information on breaches of the rights of people to be mobilized in Russia. The channel also said that the presenter in question had been dismissed.

TV Rain moved its broadcasting premises to Latvia after Russia launched the war in Ukraine.

Later on December 2 this year, the State Security Service (VDD) said it had started an investigation in connection with the statements made on TV Rain "which raises suspicions about the assistance provided by this television channel to the soldiers of the Russian occupation forces."

"The statements were found in the news program "Here and now" shown on the television channel "TV Rain" on December 1 of this year. During the program, its presenter invites viewers to provide information about the conditions of mobilized Russian citizens at the front and expresses the hope that the TV channel has already been able to help many Russian soldiers "with equipment and provision of basic amenities"," said the VDD.

"VDD warns that, taking into account the crimes committed by the Russian occupation forces against Ukraine and its people, providing any kind of support to the aggressor Russia is not permissible. The VDD reminds that the direct or indirect collection or transfer of financial resources or other property obtained in any way to a party involved in an armed conflict taking place outside the territory of the Republic of Latvia, whose activity is directed against the territorial integrity or political independence of a country or otherwise contradicts the international laws binding on the Republic of Latvia rights, criminal liability is provided for (Article 77.2 of the Criminal Law)," it added.

The VDD also provided a thinly-veiled criticism of the manner in which Latvia has become something of a hub for Russian media.

"VDD has repeatedly warned the institutions and officials responsible for decision-making that the transfer of the activities of Russia's so-called independent media to Latvia is associated with various risks. First of all, media representatives who have arrived from the aggressor state create intelligence risks. Since these media companies and journalists have been working in the aggressor country for a long time, it cannot be ruled out that certain media outlets that started operating in Latvia or their representatives have links with the Russian special services. Also, there is a possible increased interest of the Russian special services in the activities of the emigrant media in Latvia," the security service said.

"Secondly, the activity of Russian media representatives in Latvia is associated with risks for the security of the Latvian information space. For years, Russia has implemented targeted and systematic measures to influence public opinion in accordance with Russia's interests, therefore there is a risk that messages directed against Western countries, including Latvia, may be included in the content created by certain media," it added.

The VDD is one of three national security authorities in Latvia. The others are the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) and the Defence Intelligence and Security Service (MIDD). The SAB already reported their 2021 activities, whereas the MIDD's report is not publicly available.

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