03:17 GMT21 April 2021
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    In early December, several Russian-speaking journalists working in Latvia, including those who wrote articles for the Baltnews and Sputnik Latvia outlets, were accused of violating EU sanctions. Their apartments were searched, while they were restricted from leaving the country on their own recognizance.

    A prosecutor of the Latvian Prosecutor's Office has refused to close the criminal case against journalist Alla Berezovskaya, initiated in connection with her cooperation with the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency.

    Her lawyer, Imma Jansone, issued a complaint that the investigator of Latvia's State Security Service (VDD) refused to terminate the criminal proceedings against Berezovskaya, and obtained a response from the prosecutor, in which he stated there are no reasons for the case to be closed.

    Berezovskaya is among other Russian-speaking journalists in the country who cooperated with Baltnews and Sputnik Latvia and who were charged with violating the EU sanctions regime. Sputnik Latvia and Baltnews are part of the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, whose director general, Dmitry Kiselev, is on the EU sanctions list.

    Kirill Vyshinsky, the executive director of Rossiya Segodnya, has sent a follow-up letter to various international organizations, to draw attention and elicit a response to the persecution of writers working for the agency's Baltnews and Sputnik Latvia news outlets.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry has slammed Latvia's actions against Russian-speaking journalists as punitive and a blatant example of violating the very foundations of a democratic society - free press and freedom of expression. The ministry also noted that the sanctions are personal in nature, specifically targeting Dmitry Kiselev, and therefore, cannot apply to everyone who cooperates with Rossiya Segodnya.
    "The compatibility of EU norms and their concrete application by Latvian courts should be tested against pertinent human rights norms.  The UN Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights both have competence to examine the issues", commented Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, an American lawyer, expert in the field of human rights and international law and retired UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order.

    He went on to advise to refer the matter to the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, simultaneously with the UN rapporteur on the right to privacy and the UN rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism.

    Such a persecution of journalists should be condemned by other EU memebrs and by the non-governmental community alike, the lawyer noted, admitting there is "a high level of hypocrisy and double-standards when it comes to Russia, including a growing Russophobia, in breach of article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".

    "The Latvian prosecutor is clearly over-complying with the EU sanctions targeting Dmitry Kiselev to the detriment of Alla Berezovskaya, and thus entail a violation of the 'rule of law'", de Zayas summed up.

    Journalists being targeted are always a concer, because this threatens "the rule of law and the press freedoms which the EU is usually so interested to promote and support", said Nigel Kushner, Chief Executive of London-based W Legal Ltd.

    He suggested it is "embarrassing" for an EU state to be accused of "conduct which the EU so passionately fights for around the world".

    Tags:
    journalism, Latvia, Russia
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