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Deja vu all over again TV Rain editor-in-chief slams Latvian regulators’ decision to revoke the network’s license as a farcical repeat of Kremlin censorship

Source: Meduza

In a broadcast on Tuesday, December 6, TV Rain editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko called Latvian officials’ decision to revoke the network’s cable license “absurd and divorced from common sense.” Latvian regulators argue that TV Rain’s content constitutes a “national security” threat, following on-air remarks last week by a news presenter (later fired for the comments) who promoted a hotline to collect information about battlefield conditions for Russian soldiers as assistance for those men. Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council also flagged TV Rain for referring to the Russian military as “our army” and for displaying a map of Russia that included Crimea. Council Chairman Ivars Abolins also accused the network of sending a representative who only spoke Russian, though Dzyadko told journalists that TV Rain had met numerous times with Abolins’ group and used Russian as the working language. When the council met in October, he says, officials suddenly asked to switch to Latvian, leaving TV Rain without enough time to find an interpreter.

In his response on Tuesday, Dzyadko compared today’s developments to events more than eight years ago, when state authorities and television carriers in Russia also booted TV Rain from cable broadcasting after the network supposedly offended the Leningrad Siege’s survivors. Meduza translates Dzyadko’s remarks in full.

TV Rain

It’s quite unfortunate to begin another news broadcast about yourself instead of reporting on the important news happening every day and every hour, but so it goes.

So, early this morning, Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council decided to revoke TV Rain’s license.

I must say that these events are an interesting flashback. I remember well how, eight and a half years ago, I announced on air for TV Rain that the network had been disconnected from cable broadcasts in Russia. Today, eight and a half years later, I’m reporting the same thing, now in Latvia, where our team was forced to relocate because it’s become impossible to work in Russia under the conditions of military censorship, because of our anti-war position, because we reject the war that Russia is waging against Ukraine.

But, first, let’s break it down.

TV Rain may be temporarily unavailable on cable networks after December 8. We will continue broadcasting on YouTube where more than 13 million people in Russia watch us every month.

Our team is currently developing further procedural steps regarding today’s decision and TV Rain’s license.

And now let me offer some reflections.

The first time you’re taken off the air for bogus reasons, you see it as a tragedy. When you’re called a “national security threat to Latvia,” eight years later, it feels more like a farce. I’ve read in books that the West upholds the right to a fair hearing and that the accused party has the right to present their arguments in defense. Did TV Rain have that opportunity? No, it didn’t. TV Rain was not invited to the National Electronic Media Council’s 30-minute session. As a result of that 30-minute meeting, a 14-page ruling appeared. We can only envy the remarkable speed with which these the respected members of this honorable council can write.

Today’s decision is undoubtedly absurd and divorced from common sense. Mr. [Ivars] Abolins, the council’s chairman, argues that remarks by Alexey Korostelev threaten Latvia’s national security, and he adds, “We’re convinced that TV Rain does not realize the significance and seriousness of these violations.”

More on the controversy

'We made a lot of stupid mistakes' TV Rain CEO Natalia Sindeeva on the news that Latvia is stripping the network's broadcast license

More on the controversy

'We made a lot of stupid mistakes' TV Rain CEO Natalia Sindeeva on the news that Latvia is stripping the network's broadcast license

But what could demonstrate awareness of the importance and seriousness of what happened on air if not the decision to fire the employee who made the inexcusable statement? That and repeatedly reaffirming our position. What he said was false. Let me repeat it again (it’s not hard for me to do): What Alexey Korostelev said on air does not reflect the network’s position. It’s not true, and Alexey Korostelev was held accountable in the only way possible: his employment with the television network was terminated. Dismissal in this case is the same as confirming the inadmissibility of such statements on air and it’s equal to the network refusing even to hint at solidarity with such statements.

I can go on about the Electronic Media Council’s arguments. For example, how the council’s chairman, Mr. Abolins, says TV Rain repeatedly showed a map of Russia in weather reports with Crimea as part of the country. The only problem here is that TV Rain’s weather forecasts ceased back in 2014, if my memory serves me right, even before the annexation of Crimea.

People can debate the flagged violation in the phrase “our army” when addressing a Russian audience. Our army is committing war crimes — not the army of planet Alpha Centauri [not a planet but a star system], but ours (we citizens of the Russian Federation) is committing war crimes. According to Ukrainian officials, 40,000 war crimes since February 24.

Where’s the glorification here?

Yes, at the end of the day, this doesn’t really matter. TV Rain will figure out where and how to continue its work. What does matter is the network’s reputation, which every journalist here has been building for the last 12 years and which many today are trying to destroy. But we will not allow TV Rain’s reputation to be destroyed.

TV Rain has condemned, does condemn, and will always condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia’s invasion into Ukraine. And TV Rain will always do everything possible to ensure that the truth here is conveyed to as many people in Russia and abroad as possible. I am absolutely convinced — we are all convinced — that we will succeed.

Despite today’s decision by the Latvian regulator, we will continue to work professionally, drawing lessons from the mistakes made on air, as we have always done. And we’ll do it without the Electronic Media Council’s politicized decisions.

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

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