Is EBU alarmed by Latvia’s plan to exclude Russian language from public sector media?

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has joined international journalism organisations in expressing concern over Latvia’s decision to remove the Russian language from public sector broadcasting. This move has raised alarms, as Russian is the mother tongue of one third of Latvia’s 1.8 million population.

The EBU, alongside several journalism bodies, issued a statement highlighting their concerns. They believe that removing Russian language content will deprive Russian speakers in Latvia of access to credible and fact-checked information. This could leave them exposed to disinformation, fake news, and propaganda.

The statement emphasized the importance of public service media in providing vital information and connecting with all of society, especially in light of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Latvia’s decision to ban Russian-language content is part of the country’s revised national security measures, which were approved by the Latvian parliament (Saeima) on September 28. These measures are a response to deteriorating relations with neighboring Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this year, Latvia downgraded its diplomatic relations with Russia, following Estonia’s lead. As a result, Latvian ambassadors to Russia were sent back to Moscow.

The new national security measures include a stipulation that, starting from January 1, 2026, all content on Latvian public media should be in Latvian or a language that “belongs to the European cultural space.” Additionally, state financing for Russian-language content will cease.

Consequently, there will no longer be Russian language content on state Latvian TV and radio networks, and dedicated Russian-language services will be gradually phased out. However, this ban does not extend to the private sector, allowing Russian-language content to continue on commercial channels.

The EBU and the journalist organisations have highlighted that the Russian language is spoken natively by at least one third of Latvia’s population. This includes not only ethnic Russians, who constitute around a quarter of the population, but also many other minorities like Ukrainian refugees residing in the country.

The signatory organisations, including the European Federation of Journalists, International Federation of Journalists, Justice for Journalists Foundation, South East Europe Media Organisation, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists, have called on the Latvian government to reconsider this proposal.

They argue that the proposal, if adopted, would undermine citizens’ fundamental human rights as enshrined in international, EU, and European human rights law. These rights include the right to access media and impart and receive information in their own language, as reflected in the Latvian Law on Public Electronic Mass Media and Administration.

The proposal comes after Latvian legislation passed last year, which gradually phased out teaching in Russian in schools. By 2025, the only language used in the country’s schools will be Latvian, including street signage.