Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dumbass "censors" move against Russian language news in Latvia

The National Electronic Media Council (Nacionāla elektronisko plašsaziņas līdzekļu padome/NEPLP) has brought charges against the mainly Russian-language television broadcaster TV5 for including, in a news item video, a clip of a person calling Latvia "a fascist state." According to media reports (I don't understand Russian and don't watch Russian-language broadcasts), the words, called "discrediting the Latvian state" were apparently  uttered by a vox pop (one of several people-in-the-street interviewed to illustrate a news spot).  Since the news item dealt with the somewhat emotionally charged subject of collecting signatures to make Russian a second state language in Latvia, it is no surprise that some Russians interviewed may have strong feelings on the matter and about Latvia in general. To show them in a news broadcast is to give an accurate, even if disturbing (both to Latvians and Russians) view of the range of feelings. In fact, I am sure most Russians, even most signing the petition, would not rationally call Latvia fascist, because if it was fascist, there would be no free and open petitioning.
What has taken Latvia a tiny step toward authoritarianism is precisely this kind of fuckwit reaction by the NEPLP. After 20 years as a free country, and seven years in the European Union, Latvian state institutions should not have to be tapped on the head with a blunt object to be reminded that only autoritarian states punish "discrediting the state".  WTF??
Moreover, it was not the editorial view of TV5 that Latvia is fascist, but that of a person on the street as part of a legitimate news item. And even if TV5 were to claim, absurdly, that Latvia is fascist, it is entitled, as in any democracy that grants the right to free speech and expression, to even express moronic and crackpot views. That is what free speech is all about. Why does nobody fucking get it!? Time and energy are wasted and activities that in fact do discredit Latvia as a democratic country are undertaken against crackpots of all persuasions -- such as efforts by the Riga City Council to stop a march commemorating the "liberation" of Riga by the German army (running out the Red Army) on July 1, 1941.  There are others who demand that the gathering by old Red Army geezers and their supporters on May 9 be banned. While I consider the commemoration of the Latvian Legion on March 16 neither historically nuanced (a huge waste of life and bad PR for the next 70 years) nor a crackpot undertaking (although it gathers some ultranationalist crackpots and foaming-at-the-mouth anti-fascists to have fun with each other), it should not be banned either. Why is is so hard to get the simple idea of free expression (and in this case, of news editorial independence) across to anyone with authority in Latvia? The smart thing for the NEPLP to do would be to drop its charges, apologize, and stay the fuck out of post-factum censoring the news.