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Latvian gov’t revokes license of Russian TV Rain channel deemed threat to security

State broadcasting regulator of Latvia has revoked the licence of Russian independent TV station TV Rain after it was deemed a threat to national security.

In July, the liberal-leaning TV Rain, or Dozhd, began broadcasting from other countries including Latvia after Russia invaded Ukraine, forcing the studio to close.

On Friday, the station was fined 10,000 euros by the regulator for displaying a map of Russia including occupied Crimea and for referring to Russian troops in Ukraine as “our army”.

According to Ivars Abolins, chairman of Latvia’s regulator, the counterintelligence and internal security service informed his office that the station represented a threat to the country’s security, adding that the broadcasts would cease on Thursday.

TV Rain said its programmes could still be seen on YouTube, and said that they find the accusations against them to be unfair and absurd.

Latvian authorities have decided to revoke TV Rain's broadcasting license. We will not broadcast on cable/satellite there but will continue to do so on YouTube. We consider all accusations against us to be unfair and absurd and will go on doing our job.

— TV Rain Newsroom (@tvrain_english) December 6, 2022

As a result of the former Soviet regime’s invasion of Ukraine, Latvia’s Latvian majority and its Russian-speaking minority are experiencing a growing rift over their place in society. Abolins said the regulator was convinced TV Rain did not understand “the essence and gravity” of its alleged violations.

Latvia’s ban on TV Rain comes nine months after Russia blocked the station’s output, accusing it of spreading “deliberately false information about the actions of Russian military personnel” in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Latvia’s move showed foreign states were no freer than Russia.

A presenter at TV Rain was fired on Friday after Latvia’s State Security Service investigated comments he made on air. According to the presenter, he hoped that the station’s efforts would help provide basic equipment and amenities to Russian soldiers.

TV Rain editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko called the comments “misleading”, tweeting last Friday that “TV Rain did not, does not, and will not act to help supply the Russian army”.

As a permanent resident of Georgia, the fired anchor has no criminal liability in Latvia since he broadcasts from TV Rain’s studio in that country. State Security has requested that the presenter be declared persona non grata in Latvia, according to a statement on Tuesday.

The service said last week it had repeatedly warned policy makers about the challenges “emanating from Russia’s so-called independent media relocating their activity to Latvia”, saying they posed intelligence risks.

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