Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another suspicious "hate speech" case in Latvia

It looks like Latvia has another "hate speech" case, with one Ingus Graudiņš getting a suspended sentence for writing anti-Russian comments on an unnamed internet website. According to media reports, Graudiņš was involved in some kind of scuffle with Russians on the street, then went off and wrote some kind of rant or a series of anti-Russian rants. Apparently strong, perhaps racist language was used, though none of the matter-of-fact reports I have seen quote anything that the accused wrote.
As a defender of free speech, I am against any and all hate speech laws. Speech is speech - you may dislike it, hate it, be enraged by it, but you should not empower the government to imprison people simply for what they say or write, no matter who it enrages, insults, or offends. Civil libel and slander cases are another thing, but even here I would tread very carefully, especially if public figures are involved. If you choose the limelight, well, realize that sometimes it can be a targeting beacon for shit.
The case of Graudiņš, on the facts that I know, looks like a selective political prosecution in order to have a chilling effect on discussion of ethnic issues ahead of referendum on making Russian a second state language that will be held in early 2012. Depraved racist ravings are regular, daily occurances on Latvian internet portals and there should be a line of hundreds outside the courts if all these comments were to be prosecuted. I searched but couldn't find (portal content shifts) a series of comments I saw to some news story earlier today blaming "the Jews" for whatever it was that  had happened. This is so commonplace, along with the lambasting of gays and advocating their imprisonment or extermination, that one regards it as part of the written background noise on the Latvian internet.
Certainly this does not reflect well on Latvian society, but ignorance, bigotry and folly can't be remedied by repressive police methods and the stifling of political debate, even if one or several of the many voice in the debate are raving and raging, rather than making arguments. Sad, but let's not fill prisons over it.
Another worrying thing is that we have had several outrages against free expression in this country, the latest being a police raid on an internet site, but there has been absolutely no reaction, not even a two-sentence mention on the Index on Censorship website or its free speech blogs.  We had police arrest spontaneous demonstrators, we had an internet medium's office raided, editor detained for 48 hours, servers seized, and now a rather suspicious hate speech case. I informed Index about all of these. May I kindly ask Index on Censorship- why the fuck are you completely ignoring this?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More on the Latvian police action against a journalist

This is a chronology of events surrounding the arrest of Leonids Jakabsons, a journalist and editor of the investigative and whistle-blowing website 
Jakabsons has been released after being held the maximum 48 hours before a suspect must be brought before a judge and a case presented for further detention (a formal criminal investigation must be started or charges brought). It is pretty clear that this detention is a deliberate application of the chilling effect, as was done when Ilze Nagla, a Latvian television journalist, had her home searched and laptop seized after reporting on the activities of "Neo", a cyberactivist who leaked anonymized salary data from government and municipal institutions that he obtained by exploiting a "hole" in the State Revenue Service database. Later, when arrested, "Neo" was discovered to be Ilmārs Poikāns, an artificial intelligence researcher at the University of Latvia faculty of mathematics and computer science.


November 16, 2011. publishes Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs correspondence with Alexander Hapilov of the Russian Embassy, a person suspected of spying
November 18, 2011 Ceaseless cyberattacks start against and continue to the present.
November 21, 2011 complains to the Cybercrime unit of the Economic Police, the responsible detective Aleksandrs Bebris shows no interest in the complaint/
November 22, 2011 After news appears on news portals about the cyberattacks on, the Latvian IT security incident response unit CERT.LV contacts and offers its assistance. CERT.LV examines log files, identifies the attacker and is prepared to participate in the case as a witness.

December 3, 2011, Detective Aleksandr Bebris announced that the Cybercrime unit has more important cases to investigate and no further investigation would be undertaken, even though the evidence submitted was more than sufficient to arrest those responsible.

December 14, 2011, Detective Aleksandrs Bebris asks systems administrator Edmunds Zalitis to give a witness statement with regard to the cyber attack on Detective Bebris was particularly interested in the technical specifications of’ s servers and whether there were backup copies, The detective also wanted access password, which, for security reasons, were not disclosed.

December 15, 2011 at 12:30 Cybercrimes unit detective Aleksandrs Bebris and three masked policemena around at the Riga World Trade Center and, using a sledge hammer, break into the office of an internet club. After an hour and a half, the police leave, taking along the server , a server labeled “Backup” and two optical labeled Norton Systemworks 2005 (as could be determined from a bad quality carbon copy). The search and seizure had been requested by detective Nauris Liepins of the National Police, the search warrant was  approved by Judge Rinalds Silakalns. Aleksandrs Bebris and Peteris Reinfelds participated in the search.

At the same time, journalist Leonid Jakabsons is arrested at his home and all data media found in his residence during a search are seized.

contact provided by the source
edmunds zalite
+371 29222919

THE LESSONS LEARNED:   Journalists in Latvia are operating in a latent crypto-authoritarian system where their freedom to work and the security of their working materials (digital or otherwise) can be violated at any time. To build better defenses, it is best to use cloud services and store or back-up notes and other confidential material in countries such as Iceland, Sweden, perhaps the US. Certainly any website like should be hosted outside Latvia. Critical data should be encrypted at the cost of losing any media or computer it is on, while the authorities struggle to try to break in. 

Latvian website journalist jailed

I am reposting this item, apparently written by Reporters without Frontiers (or Borders) in Latvia. I was out of town when this happened on December 15 and I had assumed to be a Russian-language website, which I don't read because I don't speak Russian. This is not to say that repression against Russian-language media in Latvia should get the short shrift, just that I cannot examine the issues as precisely as if the reasons (or excuses) for the repression were in a language I read. So here it is.

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns yesterday’s arrest of Leonīds Jākobsons, a news website owner and editor who for the past month has been posting copies of a series of compromising emails that had been sent or received by Nils Ušakovs, mayor of Riga and a former member of the Latvian parliament. The organisation demands his immediate release.
The emails that Jākobsons began posting on his website Kompromat ( on 17 November indicated that Ušakovs provided information to a member of the Russian embassy in Riga and engaged in a strange correspondence that has aroused suspicions about the nature of Ušakovs’ activities.
The winner of the National Journalism Prize in 2009 in the “Defence of Media Freedom” category, Jākobsons is reportedly also in the possession of other – so far unpublished – emails suggesting that illegal commissions were used to finance a political party’s election campaign illegally.
“We demand Jākobsons’ immediate release,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is unacceptable that a journalist can be jailed for an alleged media offence in a European Union member country. “The confidentiality of journalists’ sources is being seriously threatened by the seizure of all of his computer equipment and by the pressure being put on him to reveal how he obtained the emails.
“The mayor of Riga can bring a legal action against Jākobsons if he thinks it is necessary, or he can take advantage of the right of reply if he thinks he has been defamed. But Jākobsons’ arrest and imprisonment and the confiscation of all of his equipment seem more like an act of revenge than the actions of an impartial judicial system.”
During a raid on Jākobsons’ apartment yesterday, police seized two computers and all the computer storage material and devices they could find. After completing their search, they arrested Jākobsons on suspicion of illegally acquiring electronic communication data. The police also went to the premises of an Internet Service provider and seized the three servers that hosted the Kompromat website, which can no longer be accessed.
The day after Jākobsons posted the first emails on Kompromat, the site began being the target of a major DDoS attack that lasted several days. On 21 November, a hacker succeeded in deleting all of the site’s archives (more than 10 years of content in Russian and Latvian). The site’s editors were able to restore all the content from a backup but the attacks continued.
The police had refused to accede to a request by Jakobsons for an investigation into the origin of the cyber-attacks on his site.
A well-known and widely-read site, Kompromat has done a lot of investigative coverage of corruption, organized crime, drug trafficking and other criminal activity. It has often been pressured and prosecuted, but none of its personnel had ever been attacked or arrested in the past.
Currently held at Čiekurkalns police station in Riga, Jākobsons is expected to be transferred to the city’s main prison shortly. Conditions in the jail are poor and Reporters Without Borders has been told he will probably have to share a cell with ordinary offenders.