RSF urges Latvian regulator not to withdraw TV Dozhd’s licence

Update: The regulator decided on December 6 to cancel the license of the channel in Latvia.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Latvia’s media regulator not to withdraw the licence of the Latvia-based Russian TV channel TV Dozhd (TV Rain) – one of the few sources of independent Russian-language reporting by Russian journalists – after it committed several violations of Latvian legislation.

TV Dozhd is one of the few independent channels with Russian journalists broadcasting to the Russian-speaking public,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Forced into exile after Russia launched its war against Ukraine because of its coverage of the conflict, this channel was able to resume operating in Latvia. It can be criticised for the offences with which it is accused but the withdrawal of its licence would be a serious blow to journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism. We have written to the regulator asking it to maintain the TV channel’s licence.

An investigation is under way into comments by TV Dozhd presenter Aleksei Korostelev that have been interpreted as a call for support for Russian soldiers at the front. The NEPLP, Latvia’s electronic media regulator, said the TV channel could lose its licence to broadcast in this Baltic country for “repeated violations” of Latvian legislation. TV Dozhd was already fined 10,000 euros on 2 December for displaying a map showing Crimea, the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow, as part of Russia.

TV Dozhd editor-in-chief Tikhon Dziadko described the broadcasting of the map as a highly regrettable “mistake” by an employee who had downloaded it from the Internet. He also apologised for Korostelev’s comments, which he described as a grave mistake and as a “gaffe” for which the presenter had been fired. 

However, both Korostelev and TV Dozhd have said his comments have been misunderstood and should not have been interpreted as an expression of support for the war by either the presenter or the TV channel.

After Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine on 24 February, Russia's prosecutor general ordered the Russian media regulator, Roskomnadzor (which is on RSF's list of digital press freedom predators), to restrict access to the TV Dozhd website because of its independent coverage of the invasion of Ukraine, accusing it of spreading “deliberately false information about the actions of Russian military personnel” and “information calling for extremist activity” and “violence.”

As a result of this decision, the TV channel’s staff was forced to flee the country and, a few months later, some of them began setting up operations in Latvia. TV Dozhd resumed broadcasting from Riga, the Latvian capital, after receiving a licence from the NEPLP in June.

RSF has supported TV Dozhd for years. Before being forced into exile, it was the only independent TV channel in Russia and, as such, was subjected to constant threats and harassment by the authorities.

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