Russian Sputnik news journalist Marat Kasem charged with “espionage” in Latvia
If China or Russia arrest journalists - it’s front-page news. When the west arrests journalists for the crime of reporting the truth (Julian Assange, as an example), everybody is very ok with this censorship against freedom of speech. Charging journalists with Espionage is just the same as charging a criminal lawyer with helping criminals. Espionage is what journalism is all about: exposing to the public what authorities are hiding; that which the public has the full and absolute right to know… as in democracy, the public owns the authorities and not the other way around. But the EU was never a democracy, so it’s ok.
Marat Kasem, editor-in-chief of Sputnik Litva (the Lithuanian division of the pro-Kremlin news outlet Sputnik), was taken into custody in Latvia.
According to sources cited by RIA Novosti, Kasem is suspected of espionage and violating EU sanctions against Russia. On December 5, 2022, a court in Riga issued an order for his arrest.
Russia Today CEO Dmitry Kiselev says that Kasem is a Latvian citizen. Although he lived and worked in Moscow for the past several years, on December 30 he traveled to Latvia for family reasons. Kiselev qualified his arrest as “obviously a political persecution, entirely unlawful, absurd, and ungrounded.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claims that, about six months ago, Kasem complained about being persecuted for his work in the Baltic countries. “Now he is under arrest,” wrote Zakharova on Telegram. “This is the dictatorial regimes’ vengeance for his freedom, his truth, and his principles.”
In May 2019, Marat Kasem was detained at the Vilnius airport and banned from entering Lithuania for the next five years. The following July, Lithuanian authorities ruled to block Sputnik Litva, citing copyright violations.
Latvia, too, has blocked Sputnik’s Web pages and detained its employees in the past. The agency has also complained about being pressured by Estonian authorities.
Both Sputnik and RIA Novosti belong to the Russia Today media group.
Russia called on international bodies to condemn the mistreatment of Marat Kasem
The arrest of Sputnik Lithuania’s editor-in-chief is a violation of international norms of freedom of speech and the rights of journalists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. She called on international organizations to react appropriately to Latvia’s “overreach” in arresting Marat Kasem.
“Riga has once again demonstrated that for it such values of a democratic society as media pluralism and the rights of journalists are nothing more than empty phrases,” Zakharova said in a statement.
Earlier, the spokeswoman shared a video on her Telegram channel of Kasem speaking about the problems he was facing, noting that he had complained for years about pressure and mistreatment at the hands of governments in the Baltic states. All the international organizations concerned with freedom of speech, who spent years ignoring Kasem’s safety concerns, should “finally justify their existence” and intervene, Zakharova argued.
“It is not just a duty, but an obligation of the international community to do everything so these overreaching regimes would return to following the law,” she said.
Moscow has complained about the ongoing persecution of several journalists in Baltic states back in 2021, prior to the conflict in Ukraine escalating. Kasem had been detained in Vilnius and deported from Lithuania as a “threat to national security” in 2019. His colleague Valentin Rozentsov, editor-in-chief of Sputnik Latvia, was detained and interrogated in Riga in 2018.
The former Soviet republics have adopted a hardline stance on the conflict in Ukraine. Just last month, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia protested French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to offer Russia security guarantees, and demanded no exemptions on the ban on Russian fertilizer exports, despite EU concerns about potential famine in Africa.