A combination of insensitive gaffes on one side and skepticism and anger by the Latvian authorities at all things Russian after the invasion of Ukraine has led to the termination of Europe-wide broadcast rights for the exiled Russian opposition broadcaster TV Rain.
The next step in the confrontation that started with a TV Rain broadcast on December 1 could be the withdrawal of working visas and the expulsion of around 13 TV Rain staff that have been working from the Latvian capital Riga since July.
Latvia’s electronic media watchdog the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) on December 6 annulled the broadcasting license for the exiled opposition Russian TV channel, citing threats to the Baltic country’s national security and also blocking anyone in Latvia from viewing the channel on the video platform YouTube.
The move came after NEPLP last Friday fined TV Rain EUR 10 000 for showing Crimea as part of Ukraine and referring to the Russian military as “our army” on the air. The agency also said that a TV Rain journalist, later dismissed by the exiled broadcaster, had appealed for viewers to send help to poorly equipped Russians mobilized to fight in Ukraine.
In a statement published on Twitter, NEPLP chairman Ivars Āboliņš said TV Rain’s broadcast license was terminated effective December 8, noting that “the leadership of TV Rain does not understand and does not realize neither the significance and gravity of each violation, nor of the violations as a whole.”
TV Rain, expelled from Russia in March, closed down in Latvia in December
The actions by Latvia’s broadcast oversight agency will stop TV Rain from broadcasting from the Baltic country after it was banned by the Russian authorities in March and moved operations to Latvia in July, also opening offices in Amsterdam, Paris and in Georgia.
The Russian-language broadcaster can appeal the decision by NEPLP, but the annulment of its broadcast license will remain in force until the appeal is heard in a Latvian court.
Local media quoted Ābolinš as saying “This decision shows that Latvia is a law-abiding and democratic country open to the media, because Latvia allowed many Russian-related media into the country, which can operate freely here. Only TV Rain, which broke the law and did not follow the law, was punished.”