Ukraine war, Latvian politics bring attacks on Baltic media freedom
A defense minister doubts extra funding for public service TV after a controversial interview, a parliament enables a broadcast watchdog to block “undesirable” internet sites to all users, a law is passed to revoke citizenship for expressing support for Russia in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine and journalists are accused of disloyalty or even treason on social media.
While these events all happened in Latvia, the war has generated controversy and criticisms of the media in all three countries, though less so in Estonia and Lithuania.
In Latvia a form of censorship has been restored and public service broadcasters threatened with denial of funding by a government minister for interviewing a controversial ethnic Russian journalist.
Media watchdog given power to censor internet access
The Latvian parliament or Saeima authorized a broadcasting watchdog, previously empowered only to regulate commercial radio and TV channels, to block access to internet websites deemed “threats to national security”.
The Saeima also passed a law allowing the government to revoke the Latvian citizenship of anyone supporting Russia’s alleged war crimes and invasion of Ukraine. Since international law forbids making anyone stateless, the law appears aimed at revoking the Latvian citizenship of Petr Aven, a Russian oligarch granted a Latvian passport several years ago for his charitable work and part-Latvian ancestry. The law applies only to dual citizens.
Latvia’s Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks, in an angry official letter published on Twitter, criticized Latvian public service TV for interviewing Leonid Ragozin, a controversial Russian journalist who has lived in Latvia for several years and writes for foreign media, including Politico and Al Jazeera.
Ragozin is against the war, opposes Russian president Vladimir Putin, but thinks the West played a role in making Russia feel isolated and threatened. After a Russian-language Latvia TV broadcast featured Ragozin and others in a discussion, Pabriks said that one should reconsider whether to give the public service broadcaster an additional EUR 17 million in has requested to improve its programming.
Twitter users also unleashed a storm of criticism and abuse against Ilja Kozins, an editor at Latvian Television (LTV). A Latvian of Russian ancestry, Kozins is currently…