Media watchdog probes Russian channel over remembrance day story

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Latvia's broadcast watchdog - the National Electronic Mass Media Council - will file a complaint story on the Lāčplēsis Day torchlight processions that aired on Russia's NTV channel and compared the commemorative events in Riga to marches held in Nazi Germany, reported LETA Tuesday via the Latvijas Avize daily.

Journalist Andrei Khramtsov, the author of the NTV news story, claimed in his commentary that participants of the torchlight procession in Riga were chanting "Latvia for Latvians" as they marched, although the daily claims no such slogans can be heard in the footage.

Aleksandrs Gaponenko - a regular sight at demonstrations with a Russian nationalist slant and known for his generally pro-Kremlin, anti-US views - featured as the sole expert in the NTV story, claimed that the torchlight processions in Riga were financed from the government budget.

"That means that the state authorities have recognized the worship of fire, torchlight processions and the chants 'Latvia for Latvians' as an official religion," Gaponenko said.

A number of torchlight processions took place in Riga on Lāčplēsis Day on Friday, November 11, but their organizers deny the claims made on the NTV program.

"We have no budget to speak of, people joined the procession with their own torches," Latvijas Avize quoted Rolands Fedotovs, the organizer of a student procession, as saying.

Aija Dulevska-Calite, the head of the National Electronic Mass Media Council, described the NTV news story as extremely biased and distorted propaganda material featuring both lies and slanderous information.

The council has launched a probe to collect all the relevant materials and documents to prepare a complaint, to be filed with British telecommunications regulator OFCOM as NTV is registered in the UK.

On November 11 Latvians commemorate the independence battles that were fought from 1918 to 1920. It is known as 'Lāčplēša Day' after the mythical hero Lāčplēsis.

As well as acting as broadcast watchdog with the power to take action if illegal or inappropriate material is broadcast, NEPLP is also in overall charge of the funding of public broadcasting in Latvia, including the LSM news portals in Latvian, Russian and English.

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