Latvian broadcast regulator suspends nine Russian TV channels

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Latvia's broadcast regulator, the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) has decided to suspend the broadcasting of nine television channels in Latvia, LTV reported November 20.

Rather than being based upon the content of the channels in question, which has been the reason for previous suspensions, the reason in this case is that all the channels belong to a holding whose real beneficiary is Yuri Kovalchuk, who is included in a list of people subject to EU sanctions for undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Ivars Āboliņš, a member of the NEPLP board, said that the channels to be blocked are: “Vremya: dalekoye i blizkoye”, “Bobjor”, “Dom Kino”, “Dom Kino PREMIUM”, “Muzika Pervogo”, “O!”, “Poyekhali”, “TELECAFE” and “Peterburg – 5 kanal”.

All are Russian channels. Russian channels are included in the subscription packages of many Latvian cable and digital TV providers. This is frequently a cause for concern and in the past other channels have been suspended for the broadcast of misleading or offensive content, as previously reported by LSM.

The ban will remain in effect until such time as Kovalchuk is removed from the EU's sanctions list, said Āboliņš.

Kovalchuk is a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has been the chief executive officer of Bank Rossiya since 1991 but has also acquired a portfolio of media channels and was described by Anders Aslund in his book Russia's Crony Capitalism as "the spider in Putin's financial and media empire". Aslund attributes control of 20 Russian television channels to Kovalchuk.

Under the current terms of the EU's sanctions, 170 natural persons and 44 legal entities are subject to sanctions including a ban on entry into EU Member States and a freeze of funds. The sanctions were imposed to counter activities that undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine in the wake of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea.


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