Latvia joins Lithuania in banning Russian state TV broadcasts

Baltic nation says several TV reports justified ‘military aggression against a sovereign state’

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Latvia is joining Lithuania in banning Russian state television broadcasts because it found that several programs about the Ukraine crisis were tendentious and not in the Baltic nation’s security interests.

A three-month suspension of broadcasts of all Rossiya RTR’s programs begins April 8, following a decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council, the watchdog’s spokeswoman Sanita Blomniece told The Associated Press on Monday.

The council said the decision was prompted by findings of the Latvian Security Police, which said events in Ukraine in several Rossiya reports last month were presented in a way that justified “military aggression against a sovereign state.” It also said they were “dominated by the view that despite international law, the president of the Russian Federation has every right to use the military in Ukraine to defend Russian speakers.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman in Moscow denounced the Latvian decision. Pnsyantin Dolgovsaid on Twitter called Latvia’s ban “the latest attempt to censor inconvenient information and a violation of fundamental rights on access to mass media.”

The Latvian ban follows a similar suspension in neighboring Lithuania of RTR Planeta’s broadcasts for three months after the media watchdog in Vilnius found that a March 2 weekly news program about Ukraine was biased. On Monday, the Vilnius Regional Court upheld the council’s decision.

“The program incited violent actions against peaceful people in Ukraine, justified military intervention into Ukraine and questioned the legitimacy of the Ukrainian authorities,” court spokeswoman Sigita Jacineviciene Baltaduone said. “It was obviously biased and was likely aimed to incite discord.”

Both RTR channels are owned by Russian state broadcaster VGTRK.

All three Baltic states - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - have sizeable ethnic Russian minorities and are increasingly concerned about the Kremlin’s actions toward Ukraine and its declaration that it will protect Russians abroad.

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