An unprecedented political attack was launched in Latvia against six Latvian Russian-speaking journalists in the last year’s December. Criminal proceedings were instituted on the initiative of the local State Security Service for violating the international sanctions regime against those persons.
The search was carried out at the seventh Latvian journalist, freelancer of the Russian portal “Спутник” (Sputnik), after he returned to Latvia from a business trip already in the February 2021.
Journalists are charged with the fact of cooperating with the international media holding «РоссияСегодня» (Rossiya Segodnya). Media holding «Rossiya Segodnya» is lead by Dmitry Kiselev, who was included as an individual in the European sanctions lists in 2014.
Latvian State Security Service (SSS) official statement declares:
“Procedural activity was carried out within the framework of criminal proceedings by SSS and initiated 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 grounds to suspect that economic resources were transferred to a person who is subject to European Union sanctions…”
This criminal article in Latvia is applied for punishment in the form of imprisonment for up to four years. But how can author’s articles published by freelance correspondents on state information portals be considered an economic resource? This is an absolutely illiterate legal interpretation of the law.
According to the State Security Service, the work of the journalists provided that “economic resources were transferred” to Dmitry Kiselev, who is included as an individual on the personal sanctions list. However, Mr. Kiselev is not the owner of the Internet portals Baltnews and Sputnik Latvia.
These information portals are part of the state holding “Rossiya Segodnya”, and the holding itself is not subject to the sanctions regime.
Important fact: the legal entity IIA “Rossiya Segodnya” is not mentioned in the European sanctions lists. The names of other journalists are not there either.
The sanctions were applied only against one specific person: D. Kiselev and they hold personal nature. Moreover, when he tried to appeal this decision in the EU Court, he was refused, but the court’s decision clearly noted that freedom of speech was not violated, since other journalists are not mentioned on the list, no matter what views they expressed about the actions of the Russian authorities.
Journalists and freelancers of the international information holding “Rossiya Segodnya” are working all over the world without limitations, except the Baltic countries that came up with the idea to apply criminal proceedings to journalists. Seven Latvian journalists were searched in their homes, their personal working equipment, including private and job-related information, all means of communication, information media and in some cases even bank cards with identity documents were seized from all of them.
Everything that even was possible to take was confiscated from the defendants during the process of the searches, and confiscated items conluded not only that which could serve as confirmation of their guilt. These actions on the part of the State Security Service grossly violated the right of journalists to privacy and correspondence guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Article 8). A measure of restriction of freedom was applied to journalists, as suspects of a criminal offense – travel restrictions.
If journalists are charged with publishing articles of their own on information portals, then all publications are publicly available there. Anyone can get acquainted with them. Why then conduct searches and confiscate personal office equipment and communications from journalists? Why block their access to working materials? This is their private and intellectual property, which has nothing to do with the criminal article on violation of sanctions.
If journalists are charged with publishing author articles on information portals, then all publications are publicly available there. Anyone can get acquainted with them. Why then conduct searches and confiscate personal working equipment and communications from journalists? Why block their access to working materials? This is their private and intellectual property, which has nothing to do with the criminal article on violation of sanctions.
The criminal trial against seven Russian-speaking journalists in Latvia, whose only fault stays in the fact that they collaborated with the Russian media as freelancers, against the background of a massive ban on popular Russian TV channels in Latvia, testifies to a political campaign aimed at squeezing out alternative sources of information from the Latvian information space.
The practice of suppressing and limiting freedom of speech, freedom of choice of what information source to choose is characteristic of totalitarian and dictatorial regimes. It discredits not only Latvia, but the entire European Union.
We ask the international community to put pressure on the Latvian authorities and stop the punitive machine, which has already put under the pressure 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 publicity as they are worried about the health of their relatives.
Also we hope such a well-known human rights organization as Amnesty International will not ignore the flagrant violations of freedom of speech in Latvia, contrary to what was recently said in a conversation with Russians by Amnesty International‘s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Denis Krivosheev.
We demand an end to political repression in Latvia!
EUPR Secretary Aleksandr Gaponenko
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