"I remind you that the participating countries committed themselves to promoting the work and accreditation of journalists from the OSCE member states. Free access to information and the free flow of information between participating countries contribute to media freedom in the OSCE region and are an important part of the broad concept of security on which the organization is based. Therefore, I call on the authorities to review the restrictive and targeted measures against foreign journalists performing their professional duties," Desir wrote in a letter to the Latvian authorities, as quoted by the OSCE press service.
His statement comes after Moscow's appeal to the OSCE official, made earlier in the day by Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
"As a full-fledged member of the OSCE, Russia expects H. Desir, the Representative of the Organization for Freedom of the Media, to take a clear public position and concrete steps as a reaction to the deportation of Russian journalists from Latvia," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated, as quoted in a message published on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday.
"During his recent visit to Moscow, Mr. Desir repeatedly stressed that the principle of reciprocity on such issues is the path which will lead to the devastation of the informational sphere. Now it is in his power to realize the obligations undertaken to resolve such situations," she noted.
"Mr. Desir, we appeal to you as the plenipotentiary arbitrator of a representative of an international organization in this matter. We expect that you will be able to prove your ability to stand guard over the freedom of speech in the OSCE," the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Latvian authorities have expelled All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company's (VGTRK) journalist Olga Kurlayeva from the country and accused her of threatening the country's national security. On January 2, her husband, Anatoly Kurlayev, who is a journalist of the Russian TV Tsentr broadcaster, told the Baltkom radio station that he had been also detained in the Latvian capital of Riga and would be soon deported. The journalist also published a picture on his Facebook account showing a paper issued by the Latvian Interior Ministry, also declaring him persona non grata.
Similar incidents with Russian journalists have already occurred in Latvia as well as in other Baltic states — for instance, the detention of chief producer of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Ella Taranova in Riga in October 2016.
In September 2017, Estonia refused to grant accreditation to three Rossiya Segodnya reporters for the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Tallinn.
In April 2017, a cameraman from Russia's REN TV broadcaster was barred from entering Estonia. According to the Estonian border police, he did not have the papers proving that the aim and circumstances of his visit were as stated in the visa application.
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