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EU state closes liberal Russian TV channel

Latvia’s media regulator has revoked the broadcast license of the exiled liberal Russian network TV Dozhd (TV Rain) after an anchor claimed live on air that it had been helping the Russian military. The channel  has since said the anchor misspoke and promptly fired him.

Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) cited cases in which the channel showed a map depicting Crimea as Russian territory, called the Russian troops “our army,” and expressed “possible support for the Russian Army,” according to news agency LETA. The regulator also noted that TV Dozhd does not provide subtitles in Latvian in its shows.

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“The NEPLP is convinced that the management of TV Rain does not understand and does not realize the significance and seriousness of the violations and, therefore, cannot operate on the territory of Latvia,” the regulator’s head, Ivars Abolins, said.

The regulator previously fined the channel €10,000 ($10,538) for displaying Crimea as part of Russia rather than Ukraine.

The recent controversy erupted on Thursday when anchor Aleksey Korostelyov said: “We hope that we have helped many service members, including, for example, with equipment and basic comforts on the frontline.” The channel previously encouraged drafted Russian reservists to email their stories from the frontline.

Korostelyov’s comments caused outrage in Ukraine and Latvia, especially since TV Dozhd openly opposes Russia’s military operation in the neighboring country, which was launched in late February.

The anchor quickly said that he had misspoke. TV Dozhd Editor-in-Chief Tikhon Dzyadko stated that the outlet “has never helped to equip the Russian Army, on or off the frontline, and will never do so.” Dzyadko acknowledged that Korostelyov’s words “created an impression” that the channel had been aiding the Russian troops. The anchor was then fired.

TV Dozhd was launched in 2010. Its hosts and guests are often openly critical of the Russian government. The Russian authorities banned the channel in early March, accusing it of promoting “extremist activities and violence,” as well as spreading “deliberate lies” about Russian troops in Ukraine. TV Dozhd had since begun broadcasting from Latvia, after its staff relocated from Russia.

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