Russian TV channel in Latvia loses license to cover war in Ukraine | Latvia

Latvia has revoked a broadcasting license for TV Rain, the independent Russian television channel broadcasting from exile, following a scandal over its coverage of the war in Ukraine.

The liberal TV station moved to Riga, the Latvian capital, as well as Tbilisi and Amsterdam shortly after Vladimir Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

TV Rain’s website had been blocked by Russian regulators and its journalists feared criminal prosecution for speaking out against the war and under new laws to “discredit the Russian military”.

On Tuesday, Latvia became the second country this year to cut TV Rain broadcasts, saying the decision was made “due to threats to national security and public order”. TV Rain called the accusations against the channel “unfair and absurd”.

The decision follows on-air remarks by a presenter who said he hoped the station’s reporting on abuses and mismanagement by the Russian state during the mass mobilization campaign in Moscow “could help many servicemen, including, for example, with equipment and just basic amenities”. before”.

These statements were taken as proof that the TV channel sympathized with the Russian army, which the presenter called “our army”, and even supplied equipment to the armed forces themselves.

Tikhon Dzyadko, the station’s editor, quickly clarified that the station was not providing any aid to the Russian military and that the journalist had misspoken. The station also pulled anchor.

Nevertheless, the damage was done. On Tuesday, the Latvian National Electronic Media Board (NEPLP), a media regulator, said the station had committed several breaches of its standards and would also be cut from broadcasting on Latvian television on December 8.

The channel was also accused of failing to provide Latvian subtitles in its cover and of displaying a map showing Crimea, the peninsula occupied by Russian forces in 2014, as part of Russia. It is internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

The regulator also said it was “convinced that TV Rain’s management did not understand the nature and seriousness of each individual breach, or any set of breaches.”

“The laws of Latvia must be respected by all,” tweeted Ivars Abolins, president of the NEPLP.

The furor over the TV station, which has been reporting critical of the Russian government for more than a decade, starkly illustrates the distrust of the Russian opposition and opponents of the war in exile.

Latvia’s state security service announced an investigation into TV Rain last week, saying it “has repeatedly alerted decision-makers to the various risks emanating from the relocation of their activities to Latvia by the so-called independent Russian media”.

A number of prominent European figures have spoken out in favor of TV Rain, noting that the TV channel is one of the few local outlets capable of reaching Russians with an anti-war message.

“It’s war and emotions are running high, but the wisdom of this decision escapes me. It will please the Kremlin immensely and will be used by them,” wrote Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister and co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “I hope TV Rain can find a new home and continue its important mission.”

The Russian government appeared pleased with the move, saying it showed free speech in Europe was an “illusion”.

“Some people still think it’s better somewhere else than at home,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “And some still think it’s freedom elsewhere and it’s unfreedom at home. This is a vivid example of how wrong such illusions are.

The broadcaster vowed to keep fighting, saying it would continue to broadcast online while seeking a longer-term solution.

“Don’t bury us too soon,” wrote a journalist who had worked with the channel. “We work. We manage it.”

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