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Police profile 'typical illegal TV distributor' in Latvia

The most typical provider of illegal television services is a middle-aged man who has worked in a legal company for such services before, as stated by Vitālijs Polovinskis, deputy chief of the State Police's Economic Crimes Prevention Administration, during a press conference on May 7, held by police in collaboration with the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP).

In the current geopolitical situation, the police are working to prevent the narrative spread of the Kremlin in Latvia. Last year, the State Police carried out 1,058 checks on the lawfulness of audiovisual content. Administrative violation cases have been opened in 28 cases and 13 criminal proceedings have been initiated, while five criminal proceedings have been referred for criminal prosecution, Polovinskis said.

In the first three months of this year, 294 checks have already been carried out on the lawfulness of audiovisual content, starting 16 administrative violation cases and four criminal proceedings. Two cases have been referred for prosecution.

NEPLP Chairman Ivars Āboliņš said that amendments to the law, which also criminalizes persons providing illegal television services, have brought results, and people avoid committing these crimes. The Criminal Law provides that persons can be sentenced to between 3 and 6 years in prison, but the police stressed that in practice community service or fines are usually imposed.

State police explained that the biggest threat were not the ones who picked up Kremlin propaganda via satellite and watched this content in their own home, but the people who make money with it when selling banned content.

Describing the people involved in providing these illegal services, Polovinsky pointed out that it is usually a 35-40-year-old man who has previous experience working for the company that provides internet and television services. They have the ability to obtain equipment from Russia, which allows them to connect to illegal content. In parallel, these people provide customers with payment options. 

At the same time, a new phenomenon has been observed where illegal business operators provide the possibility to connect to the product not only from Latvia, but also from other EU countries.

Police also said that after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the number of residents willing to watch Kremlin propaganda has decreased, as well as there is a misleading belief that Latgale is the region watching the content the most. Police data show that more violations perhaps are found in Rīga. In the first three months of 2024, 294 audits of the lawfulness of audiovisual content were carried out, 141 of which were carried out in Riga, while 120 in Latgale. Police are continuing to monitor the situation.

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