Thursday, January 14, 2010

Russian TV host fined, Latvian protestor arrested

My day job is taking up a lot of energy and time, so I have not updated this blog for a while even though there have been events demanding comment.
The first, already in December, was the imposition of a LVL 1000 (more than USD 2000) fine on Andrej Mamikin, a TV host and journalist for the predominantly Russian-language TV5 television channel. Mamikin was accused before the National Radio and Television Council (an oversight agency) of inciting ethnic hatred and demeaning the (Latvian) nation during a broadcast on Latvia's independence day on November 18.
Mamikin, who has said he tried to invited but was turned down by several other historians, had Igors Gusevs, a historian as a guest and presented a series of viewer call-in questions, including the answer that Latvia's 1918 declaration of independence was " a fateful mistake."
Mamikin says the fine violates his freedom of expression and his freedom to question as a journalist.
The other incident, on January 13, involves the arrest of Gints Gaiķēns, a man who started the ongoing so-called " tent village" protest in front of Latvia's government house, the Cabinet of Ministers. č.attempted to use a "sky lift" to raise himself to face the office of the vice-mayor of Riga, Ainārs Šlesers and display a protest placard. Even before the skylift, placed near Riga's City Hall (city council building), Gaiķēns was forcible taken away by municipal police who didn't give a legal basis for his arrest. He protested that his right to free speech had been violated.
Gaiķēns intended to challenge Šlesers election campaign promise to create 50 000 new jobs in Riga.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Security police sought to recruit neo-Nazi to inform on journalists

The Latvian Security Police (Drošības Policija/DP) sought to recruit Valdis Rošāns, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, to inform on other radical nationalists as well as two "mainstream" journalists and bloggers.
Rošāns, who writes on the internet with the nickname Fēnikss (the Phoenix), has published an account on several Latvian-language website describing a raid on his residence by officers of the DP on December 10, 2008. The DP seized most of his computers, mobile phones, videos and DVDs and other electronic equipment. They also found two shotgun shells that could be used to bring weapons charges against Rošāns.
DP agents seized Rošāns' phone despite pleas that he needed it to arrange to pick up his grandfather at the hospital where he was being treated for cancer.
Rošāns was taken to a DP office for interrogation and was offered a chance to avoid serious consequences (charges of inciting national hatred as well as the weapons charge that could be hung on the two shell inadvertantly left by someone in Rošāns apartment) by becoming an informer for the DP. He was asked to inform on his radical nationalist cohorts (a questionable, but not irrational demand) as well as on this blogger and Māris Zanders, an internet columnist, editor and commentator at LETA at the time.
These requests apparently came after the December, 2008 search and interrogation, as the so-called Penguin Movement (, an informal, democratic and non-violent resistance group, did not appear until at least after January 1, 2009, the day after then Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis' New Year speech in which he compared the population during an economic crisis with " penguins who huddle in the cold". The Penguin Movement has no formal leaders, although Zanders was seen as a spokesman and organizer of a "walkabout" near the Latvian parliament, leaving appropriate "gifts" for deputies. All was in a spirit of mockery, irony and black humor.
The attempt to recruit Rošāns to spy on the Penguins is laughable, since he would not be admitted to any confidential plans or discussions of this informal group, whose basic values are democratic, non-violent and open. Of course, no one would prevent Rošāns or any other radical nationalists from coming to a Penguin meeting (there have been only a few in early 2009) to exchange views.
My own relationship with Rošāns has been one of heated debate on a couple of internet forums -- my own, largely inactive Latvian-language libertarian blog at, and on the (non-crackpot) nationalist website I have met him a couple of time in person. I think he is a person that can be influenced by argument and debate, although I disagree strongly with his views. I will not call the police because of what he says or writes.
There may or may not be some merit to the DP monitoring radical nationalists (they should be left alone, I believe, unless they are breaking laws involving direct harm to others), but it is more that dubious that the DP is using people to inform on mainstream, democratic political movements and journalists. It confirms my suspicion that the DP is a kind of neo-KGB, using the same methods as the Soviet secret police.