On Thursday, 11 June, the Saeima adopted in the third reading amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law. According to the amendments, television programme distribution service providers must ensure that at least 80 percent of additional programmes included in the basic television package contain content whose original language is an official language of the European Union or the European Economic Area.
In addition, a programme may not be included in the basic package if the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEMMC) has revoked its retransmission permit in the past three years. The amendments to the Law will take effect on 1 July 2021.
“Channels propagating the Kremlin narrative should not be included in the basic package of cable television or any other television service providers,” expressed Artuss Kaimiņš, Chair of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee, which is responsible for advancing the draft law in the Saeima.
The amendments also include various criteria that the NEMMC must consider when examining information about the beneficial owner, for example, whether the beneficial owner poses a threat to state security or public order, and whether they are a member of an antigovernment or criminal organisation. In addition, the NEMMC will have to assess whether the beneficial owner is subject to international or national sanctions and whether they have been convicted of crimes against humanity, crimes against peace, war crimes, genocide, terrorism-related crimes, or crimes against the state.
Based on the information at the NEMMC’s disposal and information about the beneficial owner provided by competent authorities, the NEMMC may decide, for example, on revoking the broadcasting or retransmission permit or banning the distribution of on-demand services.
Specific criteria for examining the beneficial owners of public electronic mass media are a matter of state security. The Law also defines the powers of the NEMMC in case of apparent risk. The Latvian media space must be protected the same as the territory of the country, noted Artuss Kaimiņš, Chair of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee. He also stressed the importance of considering which individuals may legally distribute their content in Latvia’s information space.
According to the amendments, electronic mass media programmes and broadcasts may not contain appeals that pose threats to state security, public order or safety; they may not publicly glorify, justify, or solicit terrorism, and broadcasts may not include any content that glorifies, justifies, or solicits terrorism. Likewise, content that poses a threat to public health or may incur heavy and severe risks to public health is prohibited.
Saeima Press Service