Russia has demanded that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) take concrete steps to ensure press freedom in Latvia, after the Baltic state deported a Russian documentary maker without explanation.
“We hope you will immediately take measures within your mandate to change this approach of Latvia authorities towards Russian journalists. Declarations are not enough, actions are highly needed,” tweeted the Russian foreign ministry Friday night, in response to an OSCE statement published earlier
.@OSCE_RFoM We hope you will immediately take measures within your mandate to change this approach of #Latvia authorities towards #Russian journalists. Declarations are not enough, actions are highly needed.
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) January 5, 2018
Olga Kurlaeva, a documentary maker for Russian state television company VGTRK, was this week placed under guard, taken to a deportation center, had her visa annulled, and then whisked to the Russian-Latvian border and set free on the other side in the middle of the night. Her husband, Anatoly, also a journalist, was deported along with her.
Harlem Desir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, wrote in an open letter to Riga that “Free access to information and free flow of information between the participating States contribute to the freedom of the media in the OSCE region and are an essential part of the broad concept of security on which the organization is based.”
“That’s why I call on the authorities to reconsider the use of restrictive and selective measures in relation to foreign journalists who pursue their professional activities,” continued the text, which has been published on the OSCE website. Desir expressed particular alarm as “the reasoning for such restrictive actions in both cases lacks transparency and remains unclear.”
Previously, the Russian foreign ministry appealed to the OSCE to resolve the situation before it spirals out of control, with Moscow warning it would have to resort to “retaliatory measures.”
Latvian authorities said it’s their right not to explain their decision in a public statement, and asked Brussels to cancel Kurlaeva’s Schengen Area multiple entry visa.
The journalist said she had been treated well by security personnel but was given no explanation about the decision, other than that “it came from above.” She has produced several documentary films criticizing Baltic politicians and the treatment of Russian-speaking minorities in the former Soviet Republics. She was conducting filmed interviews on a legal visa when she was detained and deported.