OSCE «concerned» by deportation of Russian media executive

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The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says it is concerned by the decision of Latvian authorities to deport a Russian media executive shortly after her arrival in the country.

In a statement released at OSCE headquarters in Vienna, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović "expressed concern about a recent decision by the authorities in Latvia to deport a member of the media from the Russian Federation."

According to reports, last week Ella Taranova, chief producer with the state-run Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today) information agency, travelled to Jūrmala, to attend the Baltic Forum conference, which featured representatives of opposition Harmony political party, the Foreign Ministry, the Russian ambassador to Latvia, various think tank representatives, journalists and others among its speakers.

The Russian news agency RIA Novosti is listed on the Baltic Forum's home page as a "partner" along with Latvia's national railway cargo company and the Moscow think tank the Institute of Contemporary Development whose chairman Igor Yurgens, also chairs the Baltic Forum's advisory board.

Coincidentally, Taranova's arrest was initially reported by RIA Novosti.

While Taranova was allowed to enter the country without hindrance, on 21 October border service representatives detained her at the conference venue, took her to their office and then deported her from Riga’s airport to the Russian Federation.

Taranova was reportedly deported despite having all the required travel documents, including a valid Schengen visa, and was not provided with any sound explanation for the expulsion. She has attended several previous Baltic Forum meetings in Latvia.

According to Taranova's account, there was also confusion regarding whether she should have been informed that she was blacklisted.

“While I do not question the right of any state to control its borders and safeguard its citizens, I am worried that this kind of restrictive measures targeting members of the media could have a negative effect on media freedom,” Mijatović said. “I ask the authorities to swiftly look into this case.”

It is not the first time the OSCE has expressed concern about Latvia's blacklisting decisions. In March it said a decision to shut down the local website of the Sputnik propaganda channel, saying it set a dangerous precedent. 

In addition on October 24 Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis announced he had put Russian actor Dmitry Pevtsov on the blacklist of individuals barred from entering Latvia.

Pevtsov and the Car Tush band were due to give a concert in Riga on November 19 but the sale of tickets to the show has now been suspended, the LETA news service reported.

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