Concerns About Propaganda Media Sites Spread Beyond Baltics
The question of foreign-financed media acting as propaganda outlets have been roiling the Baltic sea states the last couple of months during the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Now another Baltic state has applied sanctions on one outlet while Finland is examining the practices of another.
In a move almost identical to the one taken by Lithuanian broadcasting last week, Latvia has suspended the broadcasting rights of a Russian-language television station for three months, citing alleged "war propaganda," and is considering taking action against another station, according to wire service reports.
In Finland, a English-language web site called Finnbay has come under scrutiny for perceived inaccurate reporting on bilateral issues involving Finland and Russia.
Latvia's National Electronic Mass Media Council said it was suspending Rossiya RTR, which operates under the name RTR Planeta, based on the agency's analysis of news broadcasts between March 2 and March 17 that "justified military aggression against a sovereign state." RTR had a 6.3 percent share of the local TV market in March, according to the market research company TNS.
The broadcasts were determined to have violated the country's electronic mass media law, which bans "incitement to war or the initiation of a military conflict." The council was beginning an investigation of the content of Pervyi Baltiysky Kanal (PBK) Latvia. PBK had 10.6 percent of the local TV market in March.
Latvian security authorities have also launched an investigation of Tatjana Zdanoka, a European Parliament member affiliated with a political party that recently renamed itself the Latvian Russian Union, reported the Wall Street Journal. Zdanoka is being investigated in relation to allegations that she is working to undermine the Latvian state in her support for Russia. She has called the allegations "stupid" and billed them as a publicity stunt by a political rival. She will return Wednesday from Brussels.
In Finland, the website Finnbay is known for subscription-based English-language reporting about the country. Its site reported Sunday that Finland would continue its cooperation with Russia regardless of the views of the European Union and the United States, Yle News reported. Following the publication of the news item, Finland’s Ambassador to Russia Hannu Himanen tweeted that the report was inaccurate.
"Beware: this link leads to a bogus website. The report is utter nonsense and completely misrepresents the views of Finland," he wrote.
Earlier this month Finnbay reported to is global audience that Finland was nervous over Russian military exercises, a story that got some international attention. Finnbay later continued the theme using an interview with Finnish Defense Forces publicist Eero Karhuvaara, who told Yle that his comments were used inaccurately.
Yle News also reported that the individuals behind the site's Web registration were unknown, and that it does not mention the editor in chief, although Finnish law expressly requires such information for web and print news.
Finnbay has not commented on the criticism directly, but has published a defense of its reporting on its own website, also suggesting that it is considering legal action against Himanen.
A Lithuanian court recently suspended NTV Mir transmissions for three months in that country over allegations it was inciting ethnic hatred and "war propaganda."