A series of trials began in Riga on Tuesday involving 16 journalists accused of violating European Union sanctions by collaborating with Russian news portals Sputnik and Baltnews. According to Delfi, the case against the journalists is based on the fact that Sputnik and Baltnews, currently blocked in Latvia, are linked to the Russian state agency “Rossiya Segodnya,” whose general director, Dmytro Kiselev, is under EU sanctions.
The accused include former Baltnews editor-in-chief Andrey Yakovlev, well-known Latvian journalists Alla Berezovska, Yelena Kirilova, Vladimir Dorofeev, Aleksandr Malnach, Andrey Tatarchuk, and Lyudmila Pribilska, political activist Vladimir Linderman, assistant to MEP Tatiana Zhdanok – Andrey Solopenko, and photographer Sergey Melkonov.
The prosecution claims that the journalists knowingly and with selfish motives provided economic resources to a person under sanctions by working for Sputnik and Baltnews. The offense carries a penalty of up to four years imprisonment.
The defendants stress that the sanctions against “Rossiya Segodnya” as a legal entity were announced only in February 2023, while they had collaborated with the publications earlier. They argue that building the accusation based on working for Sputnik benefiting Kiselev specifically is incorrect.
“We consider the case politically motivated, violating the fundamental principles of freedom of speech. It was inspired to intimidate journalists, effectively banning them from engaging in their professional activities,” said the accused journalists in a statement to the press.
Fourteen cases were separated into individual trials, with six defendants appearing in court in April, May, and June. The first trial involves journalist Vladimir Dorofeev, who has worked in various media for over 25 years. He denies any wrongdoing, claiming that the case against him and his colleagues is fabricated and reminiscent of a “lynch trial.”
In February, Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council temporarily restricted access to several websites linked to Russian propaganda media outlets (mostly regional mirrors of Sputnik and RT) in Latvia until EU sanctions are lifted.