CASE NO. 1
The False Fact or Narrative
On February 21, Vesti.lv published news entitled “The Latvian nationalists have again decided to put down the Russians
.” The news informed about the legislative initiative to revise the way how foreigners can receive permanent residence permit in Latvia. This initiative was proposed by the National Alliance, one of the ruling parties. A day later Vesti.lv published yet another news about this topic; its title stated that two largest parties of the ruling coalition will “consider the reduction of Russians in Latvia
The current legislation as well as the proposed amendments does not extrapolate Russians as a special group in terms of residence permits; the legislation which regulates the procedure of residence permits defines foreigners in general as the target group of residence permit. To be sure, the citizens of Russia have been the largest group who have received residence permits. However, the purpose of the proposed amendments is not to “put down the Russians,” but rather to maximize the benefits that Latvian economy can get from awarding residence permits.
Both news titles frame the legislative initiative as the nationalists’ attempts to block Russians coming to Latvia. Simultaneously the body text of both news materials consistently speaks about residence permits to foreigners in general without emphasizing the citizens of Russia as a specific target group.
The target group of this disinformation is Latvia’s Russian speakers as well as the citizens of Russia.
The permanent residence permits have been a hot topic for several years, as it has always been related not only to economic arguments, but also to the fact that the citizens of Russia are the most motivated group in terms of temporary staying in Latvia. The efforts by National Alliance to revise the procedure of how residence permits are assigned to foreigners evoke disinformation where an ethnic context and specific intentions to discriminate the citizens of Russia is highlighted. Thus the media news exploits well-known interpretive schemes about Latvian nationalists who suppress the Russians.
CASE NO. 2
The False Fact or Narrative
On February 26, Vesti.lv published news about the criminal case that was commenced against the antifascists who were planning to organize protests in March 16, the unofficial commemorative day of Latvian legionnaires
Initially, information about the criminal case appeared on the Facebook page of Vladimir Gaponenko who is a radical advocate of Russian-speakers’ rights in Latvia. His post on the criminal case was used as the only source in the Vesti.lv news. No other sources, e. g. the Latvian law enforcement institutions, have confirmed this information. Nor have the Latvian media reported anything about this incident; it would be definitely newsworthy information, if it has happened. Hence one may conclude that information about criminal case is either fake or is derived from an exaggerated interpretation.
This disinformation is based on one source. Vesti.lv have evidently tried to check the validity of the information provided by Gaponenko. Likewise, Vesti.lv have not sought to clarify the motivation of such a criminal case against the so-called antifascists and they have taken Gaponenko’s post at face value.
The target group of this disinformation is Latvia’s Russian speakers.
This disinformation should be regarded in a broader context, i. e. it is related to the warming-up of the Latvian public space before the annual March 16 activities in Riga. On March 16, Latvian legionnaires or soldiers who were largely conscripted in the German army during the Second World War are unofficially commemorated. The information posted by Gaponenko is one of the methods how the noise around March 16 is generated in Latvia’s public space, particularly in the Russian-speaking segment. This specific message is aimed at demonstrating how Latvian law enforcement institutions suppress “antifascists”. This goes in line with a pro-Kremlin narrative on the rebirth of fascisms in Latvia which is supported by ruling parties and state institutions.