MOSCOW, January 4. /TASS/. Riga grossly violates its international obligations in ensuring the freedom of speech, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said commenting on Latvia’s decision to expel journalists working for Russia’s TV Tsentr network and the VGTRK media group, Anatoly Kurlayev and Olga Kurlayeva.
"The official Riga grossly violates its international legal obligations in the field of ensuring the freedom of expression, tramples under foot the founding acts of the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe," she said.Zakharova added that "it is absolutely obvious that the Latvian authorities with the silent support from Brussels pursue the objective of fully clearing the country’s information space of unwanted media."
"We will spare no effort to have relevant international institutions provide due reaction to that," she stressed. "We call on non-government organizations specializing in the freedom of speech to give adequate assessment of Latvia’s actions, which are unacceptable for a democratic society."
According to the Russian diplomat, attempts at explaining the journalists’ expulsion by alleging that they are a threat to Latvia’s national security "smack of the totalitarian times of the 1930s in Spain and Germany."
She drew attention to a problem situation in the area of ensuring the freedom of specch in other European countries boasting of their democratic traditions. "For instance, Paris, the cradle of humanitarian rights and freedoms," she said. "While Latvian neo-Europeans are indulging in barbarous practices of physical confrontation with journalists, official Paris is planning to toughen control over social networks. This initiative was put forth by President [Emmanuel] Macron, who, by the way, is personally hampering the work of Russian journalists in France."
Deportation of Russian journalists
On January 3, Latvia expelled Anatoly Kurlayev, a journalist working with Russia’s TV Tsentr television channel, whose name had been put on a black list of non-grata persons banned from entry to that country for an indefinite period. His wife, Olga Kurlayeva, a journalist from Russia’s VGTRK broadcaster, was detained on January 4. According to the Russian embassy in Riga, she is likely to be deported to Russia on the same day. Latvia’s border protection service said she had also been blacklisted as a persona non-grata.
In an interview with the Blatkom radio station, Kurlayev said he had been told he was a threat to Latvia’s statehood. His wife told the Rossiya-24 television channel that she had also been told she was a threat to Latvia’s national security.