NEPLP restricts rebroadcasting and distribution of Rossiya RTR in Latvia for six months

19.04.2016 10:25

The National Electronic Mass Media Council (Nacionālā elektronisko plašsaziņas līdzekļu padome, NEPLP) during a meeting on April 7, 2016 took a decision to ban rebroadcasting and distribution of the Rossiya RTR TV program in the territory of Latvia for a period of six months, effective the day the decision comes into force (the decision comes into force the day it is published in the public journal Latvijas Vēstnesis).

During 2015, the NEPLP repeatedly established gross violations in programs aired on the television channel Rossiya RTR, which violated both the Electronic Mass Media Law of Latvia (Elektronisko plašsaziņas līdzekļu likums, EPLL) and the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (the Directive).

Given that the Rossiya RTR program in Latvia is distributed from Sweden (license holder in Sweden - NCP RUSMEDIACOM), restricting the distribution of a program has to take into consideration the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The Council established signs of incitement of ethnic hatred in the broadcast Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyev, broadcast on January 18 and 19, 2015, and in the program Vesti, aired on July 6, 2015, which constitute the criteria of Article 6 of the Directive (incitement to hatred based on race or nationality, in the broadest sense of the term). Pursuant to the requirements of the Directive, the NEPLP notified the European Commission, the Audiovisual Media Regulator of the Kingdom of Sweden, and Rossiya RTR about the violations. On March 9 this year, the NEPLP had a meeting with Rossiya RTR representatives.

The representatives of the television channel were requested, as per the law, to ensure that such violations do not occur again. However, this has not happened and incitement of hatred and incitement to war have been repeatedly ascertained in the broadcasts of Rossiya RTR on several occasions.

The NEPLP believes that such actions of the television channel and the content of these broadcasts is damaging to society in Latvia and poses a threat to security of the public.

“In our opinion, inciting hatred and the internationally more-popular term “hate speech” cannot be justified with by the right to freedom of speech. It is our task, as the authority supervising activities of the electronic mass media, to react to such violations as provided in the law, and take all measures necessary to prevent similar violations from recurring,” emphasizes the NEPL Chairwoman Aija Dulevska.

The decision of the NEPLP will come into force after printed in the public journal Latvijas Vēstnesis, and it will concern all providers of TV program distribution services in Latvia – cable televisions, providers of satellite and online television services. The decision was taken in accordance with the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The NEPLP will call for amending the EPLL, so access to TV programs rebroadcast in Latvia could be restricted should the law be violated.

About violations ascertained in Rossiya RTR videos (full analysis of the violations will be posted on the NEPLP website on April 8 at the latest).

A video from the January 18, 2015 broadcast Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyov:

Broadcast Sundary Night with Vladimir Solovyov (Воскресный вечер с Владимиром Соловьевым), which ran on January 18, 2015 from 21.46.00 to 23.04.33, focused on the war in Ukraine.

The host of the program and almost all participants (with the exception of S.Stankevich) condemn the “aggression” of Ukraine and its President Poroshenko (which is supported by Europe and the United States), they display hostile attitude to Ukraine and express support for the Donbas separatists. They talk about the damage done by warfare, referring to Ukraine as an “aggressor” multiple times. For instance, V.Rogov, speaking about the situation in Ukraine, says the following from 23.02.37 to 23.02.48: “Nazi, non-Nazi, fascist – that’s all just rhetoric. You have to realize – Ukraine is a territory occupied by Nazis (or fascists – whatever you call them). You cannot agree upon anything with them. You can only defeat them.”

Section 26, Article 3 of the EPLL bans electronic mass media programs to encourage inciting of hatred. The broadcast, in particular the controversial parts thereof, is purposefully attempting to convince the audience that Ukraine is a fascist state, Ukraine is run by criminals/fascists who have illegitimately seized power, Ukraine is degenerating, there is genocide of Russians and other residents in Ukraine, Ukraine is an aggressor, no talks are possible with Ukraine – and for that reason is needs to be militarily destroyed, Western nations support fascism in Ukraine.

The NEPLP therefore irrefutably determines that the content of the broadcast is in violation of Section 26 of the EPLL and Article 6 of the Directive.

Video aired as part of the broadcast Vesti on July 6, 2015:

A video was aired during the Vesti program on July 6, 2015 from 20:53:17 to 20:56:47 about a purported domestic conflict in Jūrmala, Latvia. The video’s message is associated with an ethnic conflict that allegedly exists in Latvia. According to the presenter, reporter Grigoriy Vdovin went to Riga to find out whether the pressure on Russian-speakers in Latvia is just a one-off incident or a systemic problem. The way the video is presented, the viewer may have the impression that the alleged ethnic hatred in Latvia is a serious national and social problem in the country.

For instance, the video includes an interview with Aleksandrs Gapoņenko (subtitles mention his name and surname, and that he is a human rights activist and co-chairman of the Non-Citizen Congress movement):“The government has been persistently kindling the ethnic conflict between Russians and Latvians. To a great extent, they have to do that because of the external political pressure. The Americans are pressing, and the government needs to explain why a military base is located here, why the troops, and why exercises are organized all the time. They are portraying Russia as an enemy.”

The NEPLP therefore irrefutably determines that the content of the broadcast is in violation of Section 26 of the EPLL and Article 6 of the Directive.

Video from the November 29, 2015 broadcast Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyov:

The broadcast Sundary Night with Vladimir Solovyov begins at 17:00, and at one point during the broadcast, Vladimir Zhirinovsky speaks about the shootdown of a Russian jet by Turkey.

Zhirinovsky says that Turkey has to be bombed in retaliation for the downed Russian plane, and that a sudden attack from space should be launched on Turkey to retaliate for the deceased Russian pilot, so no one would understand what is going on. Later he says that any part of Turkey must be attacked – the West will not object as one can conclude from the Western press. “It will not be a war, we will simply strike back without declaring a war. For one our pilot [that is, Russian] we will shoot down a hundred of your [meaning Turkish] pilots.” Zhirinovsky goes on to say that Turkey must be bombed, all its military bases must be bombed, that Turkey’s land forces have to be destroyed as they are mobilized and their main task is to attack Russia’s Caucasus.

A legal analysis of the statements by Zhirinovsky finds that they contain incitement of hatred and incitement to war, under the laws and regulations of both Latvia and the EU.

The NEPLP therefore irrefutably determines that the content of the broadcast is in violation of Section 26 of the EPLL and Article 6 of the Directive.