An unprecedented political attack was launched in Latvia against six Russian-speaking Latvian journalists in December last year. Criminal proceedings were initiated on the initiative of the local state security service for violating the regime of international sanctions against such persons.
The search was carried out with the seventh Latvian journalist, a freelance on the Russian portal “Спутник“ (Sputnik), after returning to Latvia from a business trip as early as February 2021.
Journalists are accused of collaborating with the international media holding “РоссияСегодня“ (Rossiya Segodnya). Media holding “Rossiya Segodnya” is led by Dmitry Kiselev, who was included as an individual on the European sanctions lists in 2014.
The official statement from the Latvian State Security Service (SSS) states:
“The procedural activity was carried out in the context of criminal proceedings by SSS and started on January 16, 2020 in accordance with Article 84 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Latvia. (for violation of sanctions imposed by the UN, the European Union and other international organizations, or sanctions imposed by the Republic of Latvia). The information obtained during the investigation gives reason to suspect that economic resources have been transferred to a person subject to EU sanctions … “
This criminal article in Latvia is applied for punishment in the form of imprisonment of up to four years. But how can the author’s articles published by freelance correspondents on state information portals be considered an economic resource? This is a completely illiterate legal interpretation of the law.
According to the state security service, the work of journalists has foreseen this “Economic resources have been transferred” for Dmitry Kiselev, which is included as a natural person in the list of personal sanctions. However, Mr. Kiselev is not the owner of the Internet portals Baltnews is Sputnik Latvia.
These information portals are part of the state holding “Rossiya Segodnya”, and the company itself is not subject to the sanctioning regime.
Important fact: the legal entity IIA “Rossiya Segodnya” it is not mentioned in the lists of European sanctions. There are not even the names of other journalists.
The sanctions were applied only against a specific person: D. Kiselev and are of a personal nature. Furthermore, when he attempted to appeal this decision in the EU court, he was refused, but the court decision clearly found that free speech was not violated, as other journalists are not mentioned in the list. , regardless of the views expressed in the actions of the Russian authorities.
Journalists and freelancers of the international information holding “Rossiya Segodnya” they are working all over the world without restrictions, with the exception of the Baltic countries which came up with the idea of prosecuting journalists. Seven Latvian journalists were searched in their homes, their personal work equipment, including private and work-related information, all media, media and in some cases even bank cards with identity documents were seized. .
Everything that was even possible to take was confiscated from the defendants during the search process, and the confiscated items concluded not only what could serve as confirmation of their guilt. These actions by the State Security Service have seriously violated the right of journalists to privacy and correspondence guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms (Article 8). A restriction of liberty measure was applied to journalists, as they were suspected of a criminal offense – travel restrictions.
If journalists are in charge of publishing their articles on information portals, then all publications are publicly available there. Anyone can know them. So why conduct searches and confiscate personal office equipment and communications from reporters? Why block their access to working materials? This is their private and intellectual property, which has nothing to do with the criminal article on the violation of sanctions.
If journalists are in charge of publishing the author’s articles on information portals, then all publications are publicly available there. Anyone can know them. So why conduct searches and confiscate personal work equipment and communications from reporters? Why block their access to working materials? This is their private and intellectual property, which has nothing to do with the criminal article on the violation of sanctions.
The criminal trial against seven Russian-speaking journalists in Latvia, whose only fault lies in the fact that they collaborated with the Russian media as freelancers, against the backdrop of a massive ban on popular Russian TV channels in Latvia, testifies to a political campaign aimed at squeeze alternative sources of information from the Latvian information space.
The practice of suppressing and limiting freedom of speech, freedom of choice as to which source of information to choose is characteristic of totalitarian and dictatorial regimes. It discredits not only Latvia, but the entire European Union.
We call on the international community to put pressure on the Latvian authorities and stop the punishment machine, which has already put pressure on seven Latvian journalists accused of violating European sanctions: Alla Berezovska, Vladimir Linderman, Andrey Yakovlev, Andrey Solopenko, Sergey Melkonov and their colleagues not mentioned here, who would like to avoid advertising because they are concerned about the health of their relatives.
Also we hope that such a well-known human rights organization like Amnesty International will not ignore the flagrant violations of free speech in Latvia, contrary to what was recently stated in a conversation with Russians from Amnesty InternationalDeputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Denis Krivosheev.
We call for an end to the political repression in Latvia!
EUPR Secretary Aleksandr Gaponenko
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