RIGA - The World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL) is urging the Latvian government and the inter-ministerial coordination center to halt any covert attempts to consolidate the positions of Russian as the second state language of Latvia and in the country’s education system, including in Latvia’s universities and colleges, the WFFL representative in Latvia, Janis Andersons, told LETA. The WFFL and its board chairman, Janis Kukainis, have sent a letter to the inter-ministerial coordination center regarding the pending National Development Plan for 2014-2020, informed Andersons.
In the letter, the WFFL and Kukainis express their appreciation of the fact that such an all-embracing plan has been drafted, which provides a vision of where Latvia’s development should be aimed at in the next eight years.
The territory of Latvia is the only place where the Latvian nation has sufficient critical mass for the preservation and development of the Latvian language and culture, and if Latvians fail to sustain their presence in their own country, there will be no Latvian nation. Therefore, the WFFL requests the authors of the document to clearly define the main goal of the existence of the state of Latvia at the very beginning thereof, not on page 31.
At the moment, the National Development Plan’s chapter on education says that the teaching process is done in several languages in Latvia, which helps make young people competitive in the international labor market. Further on, the document says that studies in universities and colleges of Latvia are conducted in several languages, and that higher education has become a highly-demanded commodity of Latvia, especially in the Eastern region and CIS countries.
The WFFL believes that the document should unequivocally state that the official European Union languages are meant here, or else the document will ‘de facto’ legalize bilingualism in Latvia’s education system and in the country as a whole.
The WFFL also believes that demographic problems must be given priority in the National Development Plan; at the moment, the document’s complex system of family support does not seem to be convincing enough in order to improve the demographic situation in Latvia.
Finally, the WFFL believes that the document should clearly state that Latvia’s defense spending will reach 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2020.
Britain warns on Russian interference
Ofcom, the British regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries, has warned Russian TV channels REN TV Baltic and Mir Baltic, both registered in Britain, for airing commercials that urged residents in Latvia to sign a petition demanding that Russian be given the status of an official language in Latvia.
The Latvian Central Election Commission turned to Ofcom after the two TV channels broadcast such commercials in November 2011. The commercials showed the logo of the Central Election Commission and its Web site and said, in Russian: “Visit www.cvk.lv [Election Commission’s Web site] to find the nearest poll where you can sign the petition demanding that Russian be given the status of a second official language in Latvia!”
The Election Commission informed Ofcom that the two TV channels had therefore violated the British laws, which prohibit the airing of political advertisements.
Responding to Ofcom’s request for additional information, Baltic Media Alliance Limited, (BMA) the holding company that includes REN TV Baltic and Mir Baltic, admitted that it had itself produced the commercials, but said that the videos were “a social message” that had nothing to do with politics.
Ofcom nevertheless established a number of violations on the part of BMA by airing the commercials on the REN TV Baltic and Mir Baltic channels.
Ofcom concluded that the use of the Election Commission’s logo could have misled the viewers into believing that the commercials were supported or ordered by the commission, and that the commercials did not attempt to fairly represent all opinions. On the contrary, the videos were biased as they clearly supported the petition demanding the status of an official language for Russian.
As a result, Ofcom warned that there would be sanctions in case of repeat violations by BMA.