Journalist quits following Russian language row

Take note – story published 5 years ago

Following a complaint by the National Alliance party over the use of Russian language in a talk show, journalist Oļegs Ignatjevs has quit LTV7. 

Specifically, the National Alliance said it would complain to Latvia's broadcast watchdog, the National Electronic Mass Media Council, after Ignatjevs told the party he would not allow Latvian being spoken on his show, Tochki nad i, a Russian-language show for Latvia's Russian-speaking minority.

The show, a piece of political debate, will take place as planned with Aleksejs Dunda replacing Ignatjevs. The episode in question will debate education in minority languages.  

Nevertheless LTV later said it could provide an interpreter for people who can't or won't speak Russian on television.

A respected journalist, Ignatjevs lead the show since 2014. In 2015 he was handed an award for excellence by the Latvian Association of Journalists. 

Later on September 6 Ignatjevs told Latvian Radio that he quit as he found interpreting inadequate for a discussion show. 

"I understood that they simply want to use this situation. To come to the show and say, look at how patriotic we are as even here we talk Latvian and no one can object...I don't want me and my show to be involved in these cheap political ploys," he said.

"Interpreting always makes a discussion more difficult in technical terms... LTV said that, by making language rules I am violating principles of objective information and plurality of opinion. I disagree."

Iveta Elksne, the head of LTV's news desk told Latvian Radio that she respects Ignatjevs' work and that this situation is unpleasant, but the public broadcaster cannot allow a situation where someone is excluded for wanting to speak the official state language. 

Latvian Television is owned by the state joint-stock company “Latvia State Radio and Television Centre”. It also owns the Latvian Radio stations and, by extension, the LSM news portals in Latvian, Russian and English.

LTV7 introduced partial Russian-language broadcasting on September 8, 2014.

While occasionally the idea has been floated to set up a public Russian-only channel akin to Estonia's ETV+, it has not come to fruition. 

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