Latvia suspends Rossiya RTR channel

Latvia's broadcast watchdog, the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP), on Thursday banned the Rossiya RTR Russian TV channel from being rebroadcast in Latvia. The ban will last for six months. 

NEPLP claimed serious violations of both Latvian mass media law and European Audiovisual Media Services Directive in broadcasts shown on the Rossiya RTR channel. 

As the channel is rebroadcast from Sweden, NEPLP notified the European Commission and Sweden's broadcast watchdog about the violations. 

NEPLP said that programs aired last year on January 18 and 19, as well as July 6, were found to be inciting hatred. 

On March 9 the watchdog board met the channel's representatives who were asked to prevent further violations, however NEPLP claims that following broadcasts were still inciting hatred or calling for war or military conflict. 

The broadcast watchdog claims that the content of the aired programs was harmful to Latvian society and presented a threat to it. 

In addition to episodes previously found to be in violation of mass media law, NEPLP found fault with the channel's 29 November, 2015 program featuring the controversial Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. In the program he called for bombing Turkey in response to the take-down of the Russian Sukhoi Su-24M plane near the Syria-Turkey border. 

"Carrying out a legal evaluation of V. Zhirinovsky's claims, an incitement to hatred and a call for military action can be established from the standpoint of both Latvian state legislature and EU legislature," Latvia's broadcast watchdog claimed.

The decision applies to all telecoms companies in Latvia, including cable, satellite, and internet television providers. 

"In our view, inciting hatred cannot be justified with freedom of speech. As a regulatory institution we must react to such violations in the order stipulated by law and take measures," NEPLP head Aija Dulevska told LSM.

The Russian embassy reacted on Twitter by saying that Latvian authorities are taking steps to "wipe Russian mass media out of the country's media space".

Latvia similarly banned Rossiya RTR in 2014 achieving mixed results.

Last September NEPLP warned the channel over possible shutdown due to content violations. 

Latvia's domain registrar recently revoked the Latvian domain of Russia's Sputnik propaganda wire, which was up and running under a different domain just hours after the ban.

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