Latvia’s censorship of Russian exile TV channel is shameful, says RSF

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deeply regrets the inexplicable decision by Latvia’s electronic media regulator to rescind the licence of the Riga-based independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, which RSF has always supported. The regulator must clarify its reasons for this censorship, RSF says.

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“The incomprehensible and disturbing decision to rescind Dozhd’s licence in Latvia is unworthy of a European country that defends press freedom,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “This censorship of an independent Russian media outlet undermines efforts to combat Kremlin propaganda, which is one of the Latvian government’s goals. If the decision was taken in connection with State Security Service concerns about ‘threats to national security and public order,’ as claimed in the media regulator’s official statement, the regulator must provide a precise explanation of the reasons.”

As a result of this decision, Dozhd will have to stop broadcasting in Latvia, on 8 December. Long supported by RSF in the face of Kremlin harassment, this TV channel found a refuge in the Latvian capital Riga earlier this year after being forced to flee Russia because of its independent coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Despite its public statements critical of the war, TV Dozhd has been accused by the Latvian regulator of “possible support for the Russian armed forces.”

Aside from the information received by Latvia’s State Security Service, which has not been revealed, the National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) cited three alleged violations by TV  Dozhd since it began broadcasting from Latvia last summer.

Firstly, it does not broadcast in the Latvian language. Secondly, one of its reports referred to the Russian armed forces as “our army” and displayed a map showing Crimea as being part of Russia, for which the channel was fined 10,000 euros and for which editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko admitted that a “mistake” was made by a Dozhd employee.

Finally, the regulator regarded a comment by presenter Alexei Korostelev during a live broadcast on 1 December as a call to support the Russian armed forces. In his offending comment, Korostelev said he hoped that the channel had been “able to help many soldiers, including, for example, with basic equipment and amenities at the front.”

Korostelev, who was fired because of this comment, defended himself in a post on his Telegram channel, pointing to his anti-war position, describing his comment as a “lapse” and saying it was taken out of context. Dzyadko apologised on the air for this mistake, pointing out that Dozhd has always covered Russia’s war crimes and exposed the Russian authorities’ lies. “Dozhd is a media outlet that has never provided and does not plan to provide support of any kind to any army,” he said. Dozhd may appeal against the regulator’s decision.

Some Latvian officials have often displayed mistrust of Russian exiled journalists although these journalists are clearly opposed to Vladimir Putin. On 2 December, for example, the defence minister tweeted: “I believe that the TV Rain / Dozhd journalists must go to work in Russia and that their residence permits must be revoked.”

Several other independent Russian media, such as the Meduza and Novaya Gazeta.Europe news sites, have relocated to Riga after being forced to leave Russia because of systemic censorship and repression.

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