October 2, 2023

02.10.2023 – SEEMO Condemns Latvia’s Move to Ban Russian – Language Content by 2026

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed about a political proposal to forbid the use of Russian language in the public media in Latvia.

Latvian Radio – Latvijas Radio (LR) (https://latvijasradio.lsm.lv/lv/lr/) and Latvian Television – Latvijas Televīzija (LTV) (https://ltv.lsm.lv/lv) have expressed strong critics to Latvia’s National Security Concept, a government-supported draft document, and what is written in this document about the use of Russian language in public media. Critics came also from the supervisory body of the Public Electronic Mass Media Council (SEPLP).

According to the draft proposal sent to the parliament of the Republic of Latvia (Saeima) and set to take effect from 1 January 2026, content produced by public media should exclusively be in Latvian and languages associated with the “European cultural space”. It means to use only Latvian and other languages of the European Union, candidate countries of the European Union, and the European Economic area. This effectively prohibits public media from creating content in Russian.

This decision is shortsighted and contradicts the goal of enhancing information space security. Excluding high-quality Russian-language content aligned with broader public interests indirectly encourages the consumption of illegal content through Russian propaganda channels. It is improbable that all current consumers of Russian-language media will switch to Latvian-language media by 2026, as this decision seems to hope, rather than being based on research into media consumption habits.

According to media sources, on 19 September 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia approved the National Security Concept 2023.

Latvian public media provides content in minority languages through various platforms, including the RUS.LSM portal (https://rus.lsm.lv/). The platform reached over 200,000 visitors in August 2023 and demonstrated significant reach on social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, not only in Latvia but also in Ukraine.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns Latvia’s political decision to restrict Russian-language content and calls for a reconsideration of this move in the interest of media freedom and pluralism. SEEMO stands in solidarity with Latvian Radio (LR) and Latvian Television (LTV) in their opposition to Latvia’s government-supported proposal to ban Russian-language content by 2026. Latvia’s move to restrict Russian-language content raises concerns about the free flow of information and its impact on minority communities. SEEMO calls for a reconsideration of this decision in the interest of preserving media freedom and promoting a more cohesive society.

“To block the use of Russian language in the public media in a country where according to the official statistics from total population of 1,883,008 inhabitants, Russians are leading minority with 445,612 inhabitants, is an absurd decision by politicians and against basic human rights. Instead of producing quality program in Russian language in the public radio and TV, this decision opens door for propaganda news, fake news and news with conspiracy theories over different private online channels for the Russian minority”, said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non-profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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