- Political party “Concord” clarified its position regarding situation in Ukraine and criticized attempts to increase ethnic tension in Latvia
- Ministry of Justice prepares draft amendments to the Criminal Law stipulating punishment for incitement of ethnic hatred
The political party “Concord” (member of the political union the Concord Centre) came with its statement regarding situation in Ukraine saying that it supports territorial integrity of Ukraine and condemns violence used by any of the parties, military intervention, and intervention in internal affairs of a sovereign state. The Concord also stated that it is against incitement of tension in Latvia using rhetoric turned against representatives of ethnic minorities and restriction on civil freedoms, such as attempts to limit work of mass media and freedom of speech. The Concord called Latvian politicians to join efforts for consolidation of the society. Vesti Segodnya
Yesterday, the Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee discussed the draft amendments to the Article 78 of the Criminal Law stipulating punishment for incitement of ethnic hatred. Presently the law stipulates liability for conscious incitement of ethnic or racial hatred. The Minister of Justice Baiba Broka proposed to exclude the word “conscious” from the Article because conscious intent is hard to prove and incitement of hatred in some cases can be made also with indirect intent. Vesti Segodnya, Latvijas Avize
- Nationalists’ union proposes to introduce voluntary helpers of state language inspectors
- Government discussed with the security bodies possible risks of confrontations during public events in March
- Latvijas Avize questions whether the presence of relatively large number of Russian citizens in Latvia endangers state’s security
In order to increase control over compliance with the State Language Centre, the nationalists’ union All for Latvia!/FF-LNIM proposes to increase funding for the State Language Centre and to introduce voluntary helpers of state language inspectors. Such volunteers would have rights to control compliance with language usage regulations in public places and institutions and report about violations immediately to the State Language Centre. Vesti Segodnya
Yesterday, in the context of disorders in Ukraine, the government at a closed session discussed with the security bodies possible risks of confrontations during public events in March. Officials discussed protests actions planned by pensioners, by the Congress of Non-citizens against the language reform in Russian language schools on 6 March, and events on 16 March (unofficial commemoration day of Latvian Waffen SS legionnaires.) Diena
According to the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, about 48,000 Russian citizens have residence permits in Latvia. Latvijas Avize notes that this number could be bigger as some non-citizens who accepted Russian citizenship did not inform Latvian authorities and kept the status of non-citizen. The newspaper questions whether the presence of such relatively large number of Russian citizens in Latvia endangers state’s security as, for instance, Russia uses protection of its citizens in other countries as justification for military intervention (war between Georgia and South Ossetia in 2008 and presently in conflict in Ukraine and Crimea). According to the head of the Saeima’s National Security Committee Valdis Zatlers, the number of Russian citizens is not the most essential factor as four years ago Russia has approved a military doctrine which says that Russia use military intervention in order to protect not only its citizens but also other Russian speaking residents regardless of their nationality. Mr Zatlers believes that presently there are no direct military threats towards Latvia, but, anyway, bigger attention should be paid to internal stability in the country and the most effective way to ensure it is political, economic and social stability.
- Parents of a Russian language school in Aizkraukle protected school against eviction from its historical building
- Leader of the Anti-Fascist Committee Josifs Korens criticizes a new musical about Herberts Cukurs
- Saeima’s Speaker Solvita Aboltina: now it is not a proper time to organise any protest actions in Latvia
Vesti Segodnya reports that due to effort and activities of parents of students of a Russian language secondary school in Aizkraukle, the local council declined its plans on optimisation of local schools. Initially, the local council planned to merge the Russian language secondary school with Latvian language gymnasium in one building due to low number of students. But the building of the Russian language school would be given to a Latvian language primary school. Parents of the Russian students stood against such plans fearing those endanger further fate of the Russian language school. As a result, head of the Aizkraukle’s council stated that he does not want any conflicts in the town and took a decision that the Russian language schools remains in its historical building.
Leader of the Anti-Fascist Committee Josifs Korens criticizes a new musical about Herberts Cukurs staging by Latvian producers. Herberts Cukurs is know as a prominent Latvian pilot and one of the members of the SS unit called “Arajs Kommando”. H. Cukurs was involved in murders of Latvian Jews during the Holocaust but never stood trial. In 1965 he was killed by Mossad agents. Mr Korens believes that musical about H. Cukurs is another attempt to rehabilitate one of the Nazi criminals as the announcement about the musical says no word about his Nazi past but speaks about H. Cukurs as only about a great pilot. Vesti Segodnya
According to the Saeima’s Speaker Solvita Aboltina, now it is not a proper time to organise any protest actions in Latvia in the light of events in Ukraine. Mainly it was addressed to the protest action planned by Latvian pensioners who want to protest against the harsh economic and social situation and the protest action planned for 6 March by the Congress of Non-citizens against the transition of education in minority schools into Latvian language. As a response to such statement, representative of the Congress Elizabete Krivcova stated that the protest action will be conducted anyway. She also stressed that the source of instability in the Baltic states are not the local ethnic Russian residents but discriminatory policy towards them.
- Headquarters for the Defence of Russian Language Schools resumes its activities; first protest action on 6 March
- Reaction to situation in Ukraine: Latvian politicians call to stop retranslation of Russian TV channels in Latvia and close national minority schools
The Headquarters for the Defence of Russian Language Schools announced that it resumes its activities and is planning to conduct together with the Congress of Non-citizens first protest action against transition of education in national minority schools into Latvian language on 6 March. The protest is planned near the Ministry of Education which is called by the organisers “ministry of darkness.” According to a representative of the Headquarters Jakovs Pliners, the planned schools reform might provoke in Latvia the same split in the society as in Ukraine. Latvijas Avize, Vesti Segodnya
As a reaction to the situation in Ukraine, several Latvian politicians came with a call to limit or stop retranslation of Russia’s TV channels in Latvia. Thus, the Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development Einars Cilinskis (nationalists’ union) called the Electronic Mass Media Council (EMMC) to stop retranslation of Russian channels immediately. Head of the nationalists’ union’s faction in the Riga City Council Aleksandrs Kirsteins also called to stop “Kremlin’s” TV channels broadcasts, close education in national minority languages, and demolish all “commemorative signs of occupants.” Head of the Saeima’s Human Rights and Social Affairs Committee Inara Murniece called to amend the legal acts so it would be possible to ban retranslation of “hostile” channels. Diena, Vesti Segodnya
- Vesti Segodnya prints opinion of kindergarten teachers about transition of education into Latvian language
- MP Vineta Porina sent a letter to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic clarifying the aim of the draft amendments to the Criminal Law stipulating punishment for public denial of aggression
- Case about online hate speech against Jews forwarded to the court
- Newspapers warn about possible repeated disorders during events on 16 March in Riga
Vesti Segodnya prints opinion of kindergarten teachers about the statement of the Minister of Education Ina Druviete about the common education system in Latvian language starting with kindergartens. Head of one of the Riga Russian language kindergartens supports the Ministry’s proposal to increase hours of Latvian language learning in kindergartens as the present 15 minutes per day funded by the state is not enough. Head of the kindergarten highlights that already now teachers try to teach children more Latvian language than it is foreseen and to form positive attitude towards the language. Heads of different kindergartens also believe that if the Ministry will transfer kindergartens into Latvian language it will face big difficulties to find so many teachers as wages are very small.
Vesti Segodnya reports that the MP Vineta Porina (nationalists’ union) sent a letter to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic clarifying the aim of the draft amendments to the Criminal Law stipulating punishment for public denial, justification, glorification of USSR and Nazi German aggression against Latvia. On 14 February 2014, Mrs Mijatovic expressed concern about proposed amendments saying that any legislative provisions criminalizing public expression and speech should be restricted to instances of intentional and dangerous incitement to violence only, in line with the international media freedom standards and principles. The Latvian MP Porina in the letter criticizes such statements asserting that such amendments go in line with the European directive against racism and xenophobia.
The Prosecutor’s Office of the Riga Court Region forwarded a case about online hate speech against Jews to the court. The accused man published hateful statements against Jewish people commenting an article about political processes in Israel. The Prosecutor asked for one year of suspended imprisonment. Latvijas Avize
Latvijas Avize and Diena warn about possible repeated disorders during events on 16 March in Riga (unofficial commemoration day of Latvian Waffen SS legionnaires). As reported, several organisations submitted applications to hold events on 16 March in the centre of Riga including protest against the procession of legionnaires. Last year, the 16 March events were disturbed by loud protest against legionnaires’ procession and minor clashes between opposite parties involving also the MPs’ members of the nationalists’ union.