Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Latvia’s press continued to operate in a free and open environment in 2006. The constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press, and the government upholds these rights in practice. However, libel remains a criminal offense. In a high-profile case, the daily newspaper Neatkariga Rita Avize published transcripts in September 2006 of a television journalist’s private mobile telephone conversations. An investigation by the prosecutor’s office revealed that a judge had given permission for the wiretapping to the financial police as part of an organized crime probe, and the police had then leaked the transcripts. The judge received a disciplinary sanction, and the investigation continued at year’s end. Neatkariga Rita Avize is widely believed to be controlled by Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs, who is under criminal investigation for corruption. In another case, LTV received a court order in September to reveal its sources for a story about the Lembergs investigation. LTV refused, and an appeal in the case was pending at year’s end. There were no attacks on the press in 2006.
Latvian media are diverse and competitive, offering a wide range of political viewpoints. The print media are independent and privately owned. There are four national terrestrial television channels: two public channels, LTV 1 and LTV 7, and two private stations, LNT and TV3. Primary broadcast media are required to use Latvian, while secondary broadcasters may reserve up to 20 percent of their airtime for Russian-language programming; these requirements apply to terrestrial services only. Foreign companies, including Swedish and Polish firms, own or control a substantial portion of Latvia’s print and broadcast media, as well as media distribution and printing facilities. According to the World Association of Newspapers, newspaper advertising revenues in Latvia increased by nearly 10 percent in 2005 and more than 43 percent from 2001 to 2005. The government does not restrict access to the internet, which was used by an estimated 45 percent of the population during the year.