Mass Arrests of Russian Journalists Took Place in the Capital of Latvia

In Latvia, the name of another journalist who was detained, searched and interrogated on the evening of December 3rd was announced — this is Sergey Melkonov [in the photo above – ed], who collaborates with the Sputnik Latvia website as a photographer.

“My house was searched, then I was interrogated by the investigator. The service staff worked very correctly and politely. All media and communication devices were seized. I was accused of working personally for Dmitry ‘radio-active ashes’ Kiselyov,” Melkonov wrote on Facebook.

Recall that the day before yesterday, Vladimir Linderman, Alla Berezovskaya, Andrey Yakovlev and Andrey Solopenko were detained and charged with cooperating with the Russian websites Sputnik Latvia and BaltNews. Also, another woman who collaborated with Sputnik Latvia was detained — she is not yet ready to give her name.

Latvian citizens are accused of violating sanctions for working for the news agency “Rossiya Segodnya”. According to the State Security Service of Latvia, “Rossiya Segodnya” is subject to personal EU sanctions imposed on the agency’s Director-General Dmitry Kiselyov in 2014. The journalists were charged under Article 84 Part 1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Latvia for a violation of the EU sanctions. Equipment and communications equipment were confiscated, and a recognisance not to leave was taken. The article provides for a monetary fine and criminal liability for up to 4 years of imprisonment. Earlier, on the basis of this logic, the news services of the First Baltic Channel in Riga and Tallinn were liquidated, and the co-owner of PBK Oleg Solodov was arrested and later released.

Latvian publicist Vadim Avva does not exclude that the mass detention of Latvian Russian journalists is related to their civil activities and political position, and their cooperation with Russian websites was used by the State Security Service as an excuse to exert unreasonable pressure and confiscate equipment and databases. “What kind of country have we built — in which the broadest legal conditions have been created to treat journalistic statements and their performance of professional duty as a crime? In which a different point of view from the authorities is insufferably and criminally prosecuted? How, dear, beloved, my only Latvians, did this happen? Are you not afraid to live in such a Latvia? Do you think that tomorrow the State Security Service or someone else will come for you? How does this differ from the actions of the Belarusian KGB, which you don’t like so much, for example?”

“In itself, this case is likely to end in zilch. But – conducting searches and interrogations, the State Security Service, I think, collects materials for another charge – assistance to a foreign state (Russia) in its activities against Latvia. The goal is the same: to intimidate the Russian community of Latvia, to demonstrate that any cooperation with Russia is a crime. In addition, hackers from the State Security Service hacked my email and Facebook, so I’m writing here for now. I don’t know if I can restore my previous account. I, like the others, was read a warning about non-disclosure of information related to the process. But I’m not going to be silent. It’s a criminal case about the robbery of the store, we are talking about the fundamental human right to freedom of speech. Society should be aware of what is happening. All my means of communication were confiscated, but I restored my phone number. Those who want to contact me can do it,” said Vladimir Linderman.

“The situation with the detention of freelance writers from Baltnews and Sputnik Latvia in Latvia is a blatant arbitrariness of the authorities, which has nothing to do with such concepts as freedom of journalism and dissemination of information,” Timur Shafir, Vice President of the International Federation of Journalists and Secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia, told RIA Novosti.

“In fact, direct pressure was exerted on journalists, there was a fact of direct obstruction of journalistic activities. The threats they have been subjected to in the past 24 hours are unacceptable. We hope not only that any repressive actions against our colleagues will be stopped immediately, but we also call on international organisations to pay special attention to this case and prevent a repeat of this in the future,” Shafir said.

But representatives of the Russian liberal public, who moved to Latvia for permanent residence, hastened to express support for the actions of the local state security. “You knew what these publications were. We warned you. But they paid more. And don’t pretend to be political victims. Everything is correct,” wrote Elena Lukyanova, a representative of the emigrant community and former lawyer of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in the comments of the victim Alla Berezovskaya on Facebook. She later added: “Does freedom of speech = freedom of Russian propaganda?”

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