Head of LTV resigns amid censorship furor

  • 2007-12-12
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

RIGA - The general director of Latvian Public Television resigned on Dec. 5 in the wake of a strange scandal over the cancelation of a documentary about Russian President Vladimir Putin that was supposed to have been shown on television on Dec. 1.

"I am concerned about the shadow of suspicion cast over LTV and our employees, which is unacceptable to me," Janis Holsteins (picture above) said on Dec. 6 when explaining his resignation.
He said that he had heard employees raise doubts about the situation surrounding the documentary and felt that resignation was the only acceptable course of action.
The documentary, by French producer Jean-Michel Carre and titled "Le Systeme Putin" (The Putin System), was originally scheduled to air on LTV on Dec. 1, the day preceding the Russian parliamentary elections.
But the show, which is highly critical of the Russian president, was pulled at the last minute. It was eventually shown on Dec. 4.

While the official reason given for the delay was "technical problems," it was widely reported that the show was canceled due to a request 's even pressure 's from the Russian Embassy.
Comments from both Holsteins and National Radio and Television Council Chairman Abrams Kleckins have implicitly acknowledged that the rumors hold some truth.
Kleckins, for example, said that if the show were aired Russian citizens living in Latvia would be "brainwashed." Holsteins, however, admitted that the move to delay the show was an "idiotic mistake."

Meanwhile, the media and NGOs raised poignant questions about whether censorship had been used.
Kleckins resisted calls for his own resignation on the popular television show "Kas Notiek Latvija?" (What's Happening in Latvia?), saying that he has committed no crime and still has work to do.
"I have so many plans to be implemented, so I do not think I should resign," he said.
The scandal has quickly overtaken the government crisis as the hottest topic in Latvia. When asked at a Dec. 5 press conference if Kleckins should also resign, President Valdis Zatlers said, "the most important thing is to make sure that there is no censorship in Latvia."

Kleckins said that he had tried to convince Holsteins to stay on as general director, adding that the search for his replacement would be as difficult as the current search for a new prime minister.
"I do not think that this is the right time to leave the position, when it is the end of the year and there are so many things to do, but we understand his motives and respect his decision," Kleckins said.
"NRTVP most likely will announce a competition, but the choice will be hard to make," he said.
Holsteins is set to officially finish as LTV head on Dec. 17, when Edgars Kots will take up the post until a permanent replacement can be found.

He will likely receive compensation for his work over the course of 24 years with LTV.
"When I took up the position, the company was insolvent, had a heap of debts, and the psychological atmosphere was tragic. My first most important task was to put the company in order and lead it out of insolvency, which I managed to do in a year. The company has recovered from losses, and its budget has doubled for the past three years," he said.
Deutsche Presse-Agentur re-ported that about 30,000 Russian citizens in the Baltic states voted in the Russian parliamentary elections on Dec. 2.