Russian broadcaster in Latvia: You don’t please anyone

The independent Russian broadcaster Dozhd moved to Riga after the war began. Now he’s losing his license – allegedly he was too protective of Russians.


The editor-in-chief apologized for the moderator’s comment about Russian soldiers Photo: Denis Kaminev/ap/picture alliance

MOSCOW taz | It was at the end of a live broadcast, it was a sentence that went over the station that expressed understanding for the situation of Russians who were forced to mobilize and that is now killing off this station. The Latvian authorities deprive the independent Russian TV online channel Doschd (Rain) the broadcast license.

From December 8th, journalists are no longer allowed to broadcast their contributions via cable. As a result, Doschd not only loses its reputation, but also advertising revenue. Latvia is also considering blocking the channel on YouTube.

Doschd endanger security of Latvia, said Ivars Abolins, chairman of the Latvian National Council for Electronic Mass Media, adding that the Dozhd leadership is unaware of the seriousness of their violations. Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks advised the journalists to return to Russia after all.

These are harsh statements that show the tragedy of liberal Russian journalism; they show, under what pressure the media makers stand, who feel empathy for their country and its people and at the same time so much disgust. Those who try to counteract a black-and-white view in a differentiated way and yet cannot turn against the radicalism that the war and its consequences bring with it.

Cheeky transmitter in pink

But first, what led to the fuss about the cheeky little pink (and recently rainbow-colored) station that had to shut down broadcasting in Moscow after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has been broadcasting from Riga since the summer. Most Doschd journalists came here from Georgia, Germany, Turkey and all the countries they went to in March, because they only saw their work preserved from exile.

The Latvian government welcomed them, seeing them as a wonderful way of bringing information to Russian society without propaganda. The caution and contempt for everything Russian, which many Latvians feel because of their country’s painful experience of the Soviet occupation, was apparently carelessly ignored by the dozhd-makers.

Despite all the difficulties involved in reporting on a country without actually being there, the station countered Russian state propaganda.

The journalists conduct interviews with Ukrainian experts, but also with Russian ones, they report on alleged Russian war crimes and point out the chaos in the Russian army. And then the moderator Alexej Korostelev, who has been with the station since 2014, says this sentence with a view to the Russian soldiers: “We hope that we were also able to help the many military members, for example with equipment and elementary comfort at the front.”

These are words that were even followed by horror at the broadcaster. Editor-in-chief Tikhon Dzyadko publicly apologized for the “mistake that is unforgivable in times of war.” Doschd never helped Russian soldiers. The broadcaster fired Korostelev, and three other employees followed him in protest against this decision.

In Latvia, Ukraine and also among some Russian opposition figures in exile, Korostelev’s words caused a storm of indignation. Dozhd supports Russian aggression, write angry users of social networks. The journalists only disguised themselves as liberal and independent, but are in the service of the Kremlin and are imperialists at heart, like all Russians anyway.

The core of the emotionally expressed allegations ignores the work of the Doschd journalists, who have been taking a clear and unequivocal position in support of Ukraine since the Maidan in Kyiv and have been repeatedly attacked by Russian authorities for this – to the point of stopping their program in Russia in the March this year.

Sender always did what others avoided

Since its founding in 2010, the doschd makers have never wanted to be what official bodies asked of them. The broadcaster always did what other Russian broadcasters avoided: the journalists followed street protests directly from the crowd of demonstrators, they spent hours in court when the state once again issued a political verdict, and they openly denounce it to this day system to Putin.

The Russian state has branded dozens of them as “foreign agents”, and the journalists face years of imprisonment in their home country for so-called discrediting of the Russian army.

The “raindrops”, as they sometimes call themselves, can deal with difficulties. In 2014, all Russian cable providers removed the station from their programs after a scandal over a poll about the liberation of Leningrad. The landlord gave notice of the premises in the center of Moscow, Doschd spontaneously moved into the apartment of the station founder Natalja Sindeeva and played the program from her kitchen and bathroom.

They lost viewers and money, but never lost heart. Not even when they had to vacate their new premises in an old crystal factory nine months ago and left Russia from one day to the next. The main presenters were streaming from their temporary home outside of Russia.

The viewers thanked them and are now dismayed by the decision of the Latvian authorities. “Long live Doschd, we thirst for uncolored information,” they write on social networks. Colleagues – many of whom are also in exile – praise Doschd for his professionalism. Meanwhile, Russia’s propagandists taunt and urge the “traitors” to return to Russia and show remorse.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the Latvians’ decision as an example that demonstrates the “fallacy” that elsewhere there is “more freedom than at home”. It is still pending whether the Doschd journalists will be allowed to keep their residence permits for Latvia. They describe the revocation of the license as “absurd” and continue broadcasting via YouTube. for now.

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