Riga mayor Nils Ušakovs is protesting a penalty imposed on him by Latvia’s State Language Center (VVC) for posting in Russian on the Riga Council official Facebook page.
According to a press release by the council, Mr Ušakovs has sent a letter of complaint to VVC director Maris Baltiņš, claiming that content published on Facebook does not fall into the organisation’s jurisdiction as the social media site is a US-registered company not registered with Latvia’s Public Utilities Commission as an internet service or electronic communications provider.
In addition, Mr Ušakovs cited apparent procedural violations, including inconsistencies in the dates quoted by VVC to justify its decision, and the status of Facebook as a communication tool targeted at a voluntary audience, rather than a tool to communicate with the entirety of Latvian society.
“Riga City Council points out that the decision taken by the VVC is considered unjustified, and the application of the law and procedures inappropriate, with the result that it should be annulled,” the release stated.
The VVC remains adamant that it is not against the use of foreign languages, including Russian, in the council’s communications. It insists, however, that a Latvian version of any information must be available first.
While Latvian is Latvia’s only official state language, around 25% of Latvia’s population is ethnically Russian. A 2013 referendum on making Russian an official state language was defeated by a comfortable margin. Nils Ušakovs is the first Mayor of Riga of Russian descent since Latvia’s restoration of sovereignty in 1991.