The European Commission decided, on 3 May 2019, that the Latvian regulator's decision to suspend for three months the retransmission of a Russian language channel "Rossiya RTR", due to incitement to hatred, is compatible with EU law. The decision has been notified today to the Member States.

Latvia's decision to ban Rossya RTR is compatible with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which prohibits hate speech.

The Latvian authorities informed the Commission in March 2019 that the Russian language channel "Rossiya RTR", broadcasting to Latvia from Sweden, had been broadcasting content that could be deemed as incitement to hatred. The language used during some programmes on "Rossiya RTR" referred to military confrontations and contained unambiguous calls for, and threats of, indiscriminate violence, occupation or destruction in foreign countries, including the Baltic states. The Latvian authorities therefore decided to suspend the retransmission of the channel for three months.

The Commission assessed the measures taken by the Latvian regulator on the basis of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), which prohibits hate speech and incitement to hatred. Latvia demonstrated that there have been manifest, serious and grave infringements of the prohibition of incitement to hatred.The Commission, after carefully analysing the case, on 3 May 2019 decided that Latvia's temporary suspension of the broadcasts of "Rossiya RTR" is proportionate and justified, and notified the Member States accordingly on the 6 May 2019.

In 2015, the Commission considered that a temporary three-month suspension of the retransmission of "RTR Planeta" on the basis of incitement to hatred decided by Lithuania was compatible with EU law. In 2017 and 2018, the Commission reached the same conclusion regarding a further suspension by Lithuania regarding RTR Planeta.

The decision highlights once again the importance of the fight against hate speech. The revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive steps up efforts to fight ‘hate speech’ by extending, in line with Article 21 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, the grounds on the basis of which speech may be considered incitement to violence and hatred to include, for example, sex, disability, age, political or other opinions and sexual orientation.