Sputnik propaganda wire preparing Latvian bureau

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Sputnik, the Russian state-backed propaganda wire that poses as a newswire, is preparing to launch in Latvia, LTV's De Facto investigative show reported Sunday.

Two weeks ago, Sputnik management came to Latvia in an attempt to sign up Russian-language journalists and other media professionals, the show's Olga Dragileva reported.

In addition, De Facto revealed that in fact Sputnik has already gained a degree of access to the Latvian market by having its own radio shows re-broadcast on the 'Autoradio' radio station in evenings and at weekends. 

Sputnik plans to open an Internet portal in two languages ​​- Russian and Latvian. The project is mainly targeted at young people.

Journalists who spoke to De Facto on condition of anonymity said they were told Sputnik was not a propaganda weapon but existed to present the "Russian perspective" on world events with the promise of considerably higher wages than would be available at local news sources and all taxes taken care of.

Sputnik's radio operation has already entered the Latvian market, bypassing procedures for obtaining a license, as the law allows radio stations to re-broadcast a certain proportion of content not produced by themselves.

And that is precisely what the Autoradio station is doing with Sputnik-generated content.

The current owner of Autoradio is listed as Estonian-registered company "Radio N", but previously it belonged to several owners, including former MEP Alexandrs Mirskis of the Harmony political party and Eriks Teilans, an advisor to Riga Mayor and Harmony leader Nils Usakovs.

According to TNS data Autoradio has a weekly audience of 70,000 people.

"Sputnik" is part of the Rossiya Segodnya news empire, headed by the notorious journalist Dmitry Kiselov, currently barred from entering the European Union because of his propagandist activities. 

Sputnik plans to operate in 34 countries around the world in 30 languages and already operates in ten countries. It is funded by the state.

Riga Stradins University professor and media expert Sergey Kruk said that while Sputnik can offer big money, journalists should be wary of involvement as association with such an overtly propagadist channel could destroy their credibility and reputation as journalists.

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