18:37 GMT25 January 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russia's communications watchdog Roskomnadzor has sent a letter to Facebook demanding that the social media platform lift the block placed on Baltnews, a Russian-language news portal that operates in the Baltic states, the watchdog's press office said on Friday.

    "Roskomnadzor sent a letter to Facebook Inc. demanding the lifting of restrictions on Russian media agency Baltnews' ability to distribute information on the social network Facebook as soon as possible. The agency's account was blocked without explanation at an earlier date," the press office said.

    The watchdog also noted the inadmissibility of censoring Russian media outlets, adding that such practices violate principles concerning the free distribution of information and users' unhindered access to it.

    The news portal announced on Thursday morning that its page on Facebook had been blocked without a reason being given. Later in the day, Sputnik reported that employees of both Baltnews and Sputnik Latvia had been charged with violating the EU's sanctions regime on Russia, and were later released on condition that they would not leave the country.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned Latvia's crackdown on Russian-speaking journalists. In a statement published on Thursday, the ministry said that the Latvian government was violating the right to freedom of expression, a foundational principle of democratic societies.

    The ministry added that the EU sanctions cited by Latvia concern only the general director of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, Dmitry Kiselev, and cannot apply to all entities that work with the agency.

    Editor-in-chief of both Rossiya Segodnya and RT, Margarita Simonyan, has expressed her hope that the Russian government will respond to the charges filed against Russian-speaking journalists.

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