Latvian journalists’ associations protested against the fine of the Tvnet channel. The interviewee said that the immigration law leads to the deportation of Russian citizens.
in Latvia a freedom of speech scandal has broken out, which is intertwined with the nightmare of Latvians’ past, the deportations, and the status of Russian citizens in Latvia.
Latvian journalist organizations warned this week about the narrowing of freedom of speech, when the country’s supervisory authority fined the Russian-language Tvnet 8,500 euros for the incorrect use of the word “ride”.
Tvnet is a channel owned by the Estonian Postimees Group. It plans to appeal the decision.
The transports refer to the Soviet Union’s carefully planned transportation of tens of thousands of people at the same time by cattle wagons to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union in order to quell resistance in the territories it occupied.
The problem the core is the new immigration law, reporter Inga Springe from the investigative journalism online magazine Re:Baltica tells HS.
According to the new immigration law, Russian citizens living permanently in the country must prove basic knowledge of the Latvian language at the A2 level. Otherwise, their residence permit will be revoked.
The law also applies to people who have lived in Latvia all their lives, if they have chosen Russian or Belarusian citizenship.
This spring, thousands of people have taken language tests, but according to the current law, thousands are also threatened with the annulment of their residence permit next fall.
Member of Parliament Alexeys Rosļikovs For stability! – from the party criticized the law and said it leads to Russians getting hitched in an interview with Tvnet in March.
Mentioning rides on the channel was incorrect, one-sided and misleading, the electronic media supervisory authority, NEPLP, justified the fine to the channel.
According to the supervisory authority, the channel had failed in its pursuit of neutrality, when it had not changed the direction of the conversation, they said, among other things BBN and the Latvian Broadcasting Corporation LSM this week.
Some other word should have been used instead of hitching a ride. According to the supervisory authority, it would have been correct to talk about deporting citizens of Russia and Belarus who failed to meet Latvian language proficiency requirements to the country of which they have citizenship.
Rides affected almost every family in Latvia. The mass deportation of more than 60,000 people during the Stalin era has resurfaced due to Russia’s large-scale offensive in Ukraine.
Supplier Inga Springe criticizes the electronic media supervisory authority’s fine decision as politicized.
The agency’s management has close relations with the governing party, the National Union, whose initiative the immigration law was reformed, says Springe.
“The reaction was unreasonable,” says Springe.
Last year, Latvian journalists’ organizations criticized the same supervisory authority’s decision to deny the license of the Russian opposition channel Doždi.
Last year, despite the incident, the freedom of speech situation had improved in Latvia. It ranks 16th right after Canada Reporter without borders organization in a global comparison.
Also the Foreign Minister of Latvia Edgars Rinkevičs The New Unity party has criticized the Electronic Media Supervisory Agency’s decision to fine a news channel for the interviewee’s speech.
“I respect NEPLP’s independence. Still, the decision to punish Tvnet is incomprehensible and raises questions. In a democratic country, the court has the last word, even during a hybrid war, freedom of speech and the independence of the press are important,” Rinkēvičs tweeted from the beginning of the week.
Rinkēvičs is also one of the presidential candidates when the Latvian parliament meets next week to elect the country’s president.
Freedom of speech more journalist Springe is worried about the law, which obliges citizens of Russia and Belarus who have lived in Latvia for a long time to demonstrate their Latvian skills in a short period of time.
“The politicians wanted the Russians to leave the country,” says Springe.
“I also support the principle that people living in Latvia must know Latvian,” he says.
Springe thinks about how Latvia’s international position would be shaken if it removed even a hundred old people from the country.
“Each of them can tell their own story.”
Latvian public broadcasting company LSMaccording to about half of the nearly 5,000 people who took part in the exams had passed the language test in May. More than 9,000 Russian citizens covered by the law had not even registered for the test.
According to the original law, their residence permits were supposed to expire in September. Now the parliament is giving additional time until December.
Correction May 26, 2023 at 9:33 p.m.: Contrary to what was claimed earlier in the story, according to the law, citizens of Russia and Belarus residing in Latvia must not demonstrate their Russian skills but their Latvian skills.
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