In March, Russia’s Attorney General ordered the closure of several independent newspapers and television channels, as part of a censorship operation imposed by President Vladimir Putin to control how the Russian invasion of Ukraine was being told in the country. One of those independent channels was Dozhd (which in Russian means “Rain”), owned by the journalist and businesswoman Natalya Sindeyeva, who had decided to move the headquarters to nearby Latvia in order to continue broadcasting her broadcasts.
Now the Latvian national media regulation authority (NEPLP) has also decided to revoke its license after the channel was accused of showing content favorable to the invasion of Ukraine.
According to NEPLP, the decision was made because Dozhd “threaten national security and public order”. His programs had been on the air for less than five months, but have already been at the center of several controversies. In one case, the television was criticized for calling the Russian army “our army” in a report on how supplies are provided to recruits: one of the anchors, Alexei Korostelyov, was sacked as a result. At the beginning of the month Dozhd he also received a 10,000-euro fine for broadcasting a map showing occupied Crimea as part of Russian territory.
The broadcaster has actually been very critical of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government since 2014, when in conjunction with the Russian invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula, it openly compared the Russian government to the Nazi one. In the following years, according to former deputy director Masha Makeeva, the Russian government tried to make “life impossible” for factory workers Dozhd, to force them to close: they were evicted from the Moscow office, all the major cable providers said they would stop broadcasting their programs and finally they were also classified as a “foreign agent”, a wording that identifies the entities that receive funds from abroad, but which Putin’s regime has used on many occasions to limit its freedom of expression and information.
From the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine Dozhd he spoke openly of war, refusing to use the term “special military operation”, as requested by Putin instead. Also for this, the decision has been defined «unfair and absurd» by the broadcaster’s owners, and has also been widely criticized by various opposition figures in Russia, who have underlined the importance of Dozhd as a source of information in Russian that does not copy Putin’s positions on the war.
«There is Putin, who started the war. And there is Dozhd, which tells the truth about Putin and the war. Taking away their license only helps Putin,” he told Alla BBC Kira Yarmysh, press secretary of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, currently in prison. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, on the other hand, commented that «some journalists always think that there is a better place than home, that there is always more freedom elsewhere than at home. This is one of the clearest examples that demonstrates that these are erroneous illusions.’
Dozhd it will stop airing in Latvia on December 8, but will continue to be accessible on its website and on YouTube, which is already the most used platform by most of its viewers.