Saturday, February 14, 2009

Drastic restrictions on criminal case coverage proposed

The Latvian Ministry of Justice (Minister Gaidis Berzins, Fatherland& Freedom Party) has proposed drafting a law that would drastically restrict media coverage of criminal cases by forbidding the publication and/or quoting  of case evidence and other materials. This is an apparent attempt to prevent, in the future, the publication of material embarassing to Latvian politicians, such as the transcripts of phone conversations in the so-called "Jurmalagate" scandal.
There such political figures as the current Minister of Transport Ainars Slesers and former Prime Minister Andris Skele were wiretapped (or unwiretapped, as some calls were on mobile phones) discussing the failure of an attempt to bribe a city councilman in Jurmala, a posh suburb of Riga, with Skele asking, when told of two possible candidates for mayor -- "who is the bigger cretin?" 
The newspaper Diena, quick to respond to the proposal to modify Latvia's press law and restrict criminal case coverage, quotes a Ministry of Justice official as saying that even coverage of open trials could be restricted, allowing "retelling" of testimony and evidence, but not "brutal quotation", whatever that means. Presumably Skele's memorable quote could be excluded from publication.
This is, yet again, to me, evidence that the so-called Latvian political elite is a bunch of scared cryptofascists who have no idea of how to run a democracy or manage a national economy. 

1 comment:

TRex said...

It could also lead to the hobbling of KNAB if details are not made public and necessitate citizens groups like the For Jurmala Association, which was formed to pressure the politicians to make the reasons for the Jurmalagate court findings public knowledge.

One wonders if Latvia was ready for EU membership or IMF loans for that matter!