Latvia revokes license of Russia independent channel TV Rain
The broadcaster was forced to cease operations in Russia and relocated to Riga due to critical coverage of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Latvia’s media watchdog has accused it of breaking the law.
Latvia has revoked the broadcasting license of Russian independent channel “TV Rain / Dozhd” authorities said.
Ivars Abolins, chairman of the National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP), said the decision was made due to “a threat to public security and public order.”
“Assessing the violations as a whole, the NEPLP is convinced that TV Rain’s leadership does not understand or is not aware of the severity of the violations,” he said. “For this reason, it cannot operate in Latvian territory.”
Latvian law states that TV channels can lose their license if they commit three violations within a year.
“I believe that this decision demonstrates that Latvia is open also for the Russian media because all Russian media who respect the law are welcome and may work in Latvia,” Abolins was cited as saying by the Estonia-based Baltic News Service news agency. “Those who are not ready to follow the rules, cross the red lines, may not work here. The rules are fair.”
TV Rain said that the channel would continue broadcasting over YouTube following the cancellation of its license. “We consider all the accusations against us unjust and absurd,” the channel tweeted.
The Baltic News Service reported that the decision will come into effect on Thursday, when TV Rain’s YouTube channel will also be blocked in Latvia.
TV Rain was blocked in Russia days after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine. Like other independent Russian news outlets, it was forced to cease operations due to critical coverage of Moscow’s invasion, and it relocated to Riga. DW’s Moscow Bureau also moved to Latvia.
In July, the channel announced that it would resume operations, after receiving a license to broadcast in Latvia.
A few days ago, Latvia’s media watchdog handed TV Rain a €10,000 ($10,500) fine for showing a map that depicted Crimea as part of Russia and for referring to Moscow’s troops as “our army.”
The Russian-language broadcaster had also been fined by Riga for failing to translate its programs into Latvian. Latvian is the only official language in the Baltic country, where over a quarter of the population is made up of Russian speakers.
Latvian Interior Minister Artis Pabriks called for staff of the channel’s residence permits to be revoked after TV Rain presenter Aleksey Korostelev called for viewers to provide “equipment for those Russians who are on the frontline”. The channel quickly sacked Korostelev and apologized for the statement.
The Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) has stripped Russian independent TV Rain of its license, Ivars Abolins, NEPLP chairman, told Latvia’s public broadcaster LSM.
The right to broadcast of TV Rain has been revoked in the context of national security and public order and the network is set to disappear on Thursday, December 8.
The NEPLP fined TV Rain €10,000 for displaying a map in which occupied Crimea was marked as Russian territory and for calling the Russian army “our army” in a piece that mentioned how viewers could help provide recruits to the illegal invasion force with supplies and equipment, the Twitter account of the watchdog reported on December 2.
The media supervisor noted that this was the second major violation of “TV Rain” in recent months. The NEPLP is entitled to cancel the channel’s broadcast license completely if a third major infringement took place, warned Abolins.
The NEPLP “was convinced that the management of TV Rain did not understand the nature and gravity of each individual infringement, nor of any set of infringements.”
Russian journalists of TV Rain in their Telegram channel called “all the accusations against the channel unfair and absurd,” adding that they would remain on the YouTube platform.
TV Rain moved its broadcasting premises to Latvia after Russia launched the war in Ukraine and the network was forced to suspend its activities there.
TV Rain first aired in Russia in 2010, while all major cable operators dropped it four years later, which the network described as an intimidation campaign.
The network was founded by Natalya Sindeyeva, with TV Rain later financed by her husband, banker Aleksandr Vinokurov.
The network became more widely known after its coverage of Russian Duma elections and the ensuing protests in 2011.
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