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Russia12 May 2005

Two Latvian journalists and their driver arrested

Reporters Without Borders protested today at the arrest of two journalists of Latvia’s government-run TV station LTV and their driver on 9 May as they were covering World War II victory celebrations in the Russian region of Pitalovo, bordering Latvia.

"This kind of behaviour by Russian police is further evidence of the growing problems journalists have working in some parts of the country," it said. "We hope Russian interior minister Rashid Nurgaliev will ensure such an incident does not happen again."

Reporter Ivo Kirsblats, cameraman Maris Jurgensons and their driver, Eriks Pakalns, were in Abrene covering the festivities when they were taken to a police station and accused of breaking immigration laws and "trying to escape." LTV chief editor Inta Lase said they had all the papers needed to work in Russia.

The police asked the journalists to destroy the film they had taken - of Abrene’s railway station, its shops and a few drunks in the street. A Russian secret police agent was present while they were questioned. They were freed after two hours and forced to leave the country the same evening.

Before going, they again tried to film street scenes in Pitalovo, but were quickly surrounded by secret police who threatened to hold them for three days if they did not leave the country at once.

The Pitalovo region was part of Latvia until 1920. Russia and Latvia have been trying to agree for the last decade on their common border.

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