Moscow Livid as Latvia Expels Journalists
10 Jan 2018 EWR Online
Riga says the two TV reporters posed a threat to national security.
tol.org 8 January 2018
Russia has threatened retaliation for Latvia’s expulsion of two Russian journalists.
On Thursday, Olga Kurlayeva, from Russia’s national broadcaster VGTRK, was ordered to leave Latvia within 24 hours. The journalist said the authorities told her she posed a threat to national security, RFE/RL reports.
Her husband, Anatoly Kurlayev, a reporter with the TV Centr station run by the city of Moscow, was detained and deported from Latvia soon after he arrived on 1 January, according to RT.
In a statement to the media that was later posted on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the European Union of tacitly backing the expulsions.
"It is absolutely obvious that the Latvian authorities with the silent support of Brussels pursue the objective of fully clearing the country’s information space of unwanted media," Zakharova said, cited by RT.
Anatoly Kurlayev later said he was expelled because he was on a document signed by the Latvian interior minister declaring that he had been banned from entering Latvia since 2015.
Latvia blacklisted 100 people for different reasons in 2017, including an "unfriendly attitude" toward the country and its people, Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis confirmed on 3 January.
The government has not made the list public, citing confidentiality issues, according to RFE/RL.
On Friday, the same day Zakharova called on the OSCE’s media freedom envoy Harlem Desir to take “specific steps” concerning the deportations, Desir in a letter to Latvian authorities noted that “OSCE participating States have committed themselves to facilitating the work and accreditation of journalists coming from other OSCE States.”
Desir also stressed that the “reasoning for such restrictive actions in both cases lacks transparency and remains unclear," an OSCE statement said.
•Latvia has one of the largest ethnic Russian minorities in the post-Soviet space, and, as a result, debates over citizenship issues and Russian language media are frequent.
• Latvian authorities suspended the local domain address of Russian state-funded news organization Sputnik in 2016. The site quickly reappeared with a .com address. RT also ran into difficulties when it sought to establish a branch in Latvia in 2016.
(Compiled by Kate Syme-Lamont)