In light of the three Baltic States’ and other Central and Eastern European countries’ continued struggle against Russian disinformation, Latvian President Egils Levits emphasized that international law needs to be improved to promote cyber security and limit sovereign countries’ vulnerabilities to information warfare. Speaking at this year’s Munich Security Conference, Levits described the struggle of Russia’s neighbors to deal with Kremlin-backed disinformation campaigns and highlighted obstacles to a credible defense, such as European Union regulations that make it difficult for member states to ban or block TV channels for “only” broadcasting false information.
Last November, the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) suspended the broadcast licenses of nine Russian TV channels in Latvia. The suspension is based on the fact that the nine channels belong to a holding connected to Yuri Kovalchuk, who is sanctioned by the EU for his role in undermining the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Blocking a TV channel from broadcasting to the EU is not easy, however. “There are channels that officially are registered in the United Kingdom or in France. Russia is very clever in its use of European Union regulations. As a result we are effectively not dealing with a Russian propaganda channel but rather with a Swedish or British one or someone else’s,” noted Inese Lībiņa-Egnere, the chairperson of the National Security Committee in the Latvian parliament.
This, of course, complicates our work because this single [EU] directive [on media] is based on safeguarding the principle of freedom of expression. Russia is using it illegally.Lībiņa-Egnere argued.
Baltic politicians understand that in order to generate a more effective response to Russian disinformation and propaganda broadcasts, specific EU regulation will first need to be rewritten. And a united effort by all Central and Eastern European frontline states will be crucial to achieve that goal. In the meantime, it is up to each sovereign country to strengthen its own national policies toward private and state-owned TV companies where it can.