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Cablegate: Latvian National Security Committee Pressures State

VZCZCXRO6244
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBW RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRA #0267 1371251
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161251Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4924
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RIGA 000267

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: n/a
TAGS: PHUM PGOV LG
SUBJECT: LATVIAN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE PRESSURES STATE
TELEVISION TO "BE LESS NEGATIVE"

REF: A) 07 RIGA 561, B) 07 RIGA 898

1. On May 14, the Latvian National Security Committee of Parliament
brought in Edgars Kots, Director of the Latvian National Television
Station (LTV), for questioning. Though the sessions of the committee
are closed, council member Linda Murniece (member of opposition
party New Era), told media that committee members criticized the
content and tone of LTV's overall broadcasts. These committee
members asserted that the station broadcasts only negative news
about the GOL and general developments in Latvia--and neglected to
portray postiive stories. One example apparently cited by committee
members of a positive story that could be covered by LTV was, "a
baby-cow being born." Accordign to Murniece, a majority of the
members of the National Security Committee were not satified with
the content and way the National Television is broadcasting.

2. Once the matter of the meeting became public, committee head
Dzintars Jaundzeikars admited publicly that the commitete did
discuss the tone and content of broadcasts of LTV. He justified the
meeting by asserting, "LTV influences the views of society--which in
their turn influences the overall security of society." Kots
responded to media inqueries by stating that he is forbidden by law
from discussing the content of committee meetings. However, he
admitted to Latvian newspaper Diena that "the subjects discussed in
the meeting were beyond the competence of the committee."

3. The Head of LTV News Service, Mareks Gailitis, criticized the
meeting, noting that MPs should be careful not to confuse "public"
television with "state" television. Employees of the LTV News
Service also expressed concern that Kots meeting with the committee
was an attempt by politicians to pressure the station to alter its
tone and content. The meeting has been broadly condemned as
unacceptable by Latvian media experts, and opposition party New Era
has asked the National TV and Radio Council, as well as the
Ombudsman's Office, to investigate the incident and the committee's
involvement in the work of LTV.

4. Kots' selection as LTV director general in March 2008 by Latvia's
National Radio and Television Council (NRTVP) generated much
discussion at LTV and within the Latvian media in general. According
to press reports, some NRTVC members hinted that the vote for Kots
was influenced by political motivations. At the time, Latvian
Language daily Diena reported that selecting Kots was "not an easy
choice." Although only two members of the NRTVC did not vote for
him, others had criticized him in the past. A Diena op-ed commented
on the selection, writing that members of the NRTVP who belong to
New Era voted against Kots, but those NRTVC members representing
government coalition parties, as well as the chair Mr. Kleckins
(Harmony Center) supported him. Neatkariga raised concerns about
Kots' lack of support among LTV employees, referring to changes he
implemented in the LTV news service upon arrival, resulting in
several employees resigning their positions. Neatkariga also
claimed that Kots had a significant personal problem - a lack of
communication skills.

5. Comment: This incident is disturbing. It follows two instances
in 2007 in which some elements within the government attempted bring
outside pressure to bear on the editorial and personnel decisions at
LTV. In June 2006, LTV management demoted the director of a weekly
analytical and investigative news program "De Facto." The director
had produced some programs that were sharply critical of the
governing coalition (ref A); in December 2007, LTV was pressured to
cancel the broadcast of a documentary, "The Putin System," that
revealed controversial information about then-Russian President
Vladimir Putin (ref B). Latvia certainly enjoys a lively press
climate in which sundry points of view are expressed in both Latvian
and Russian. However, these three incidents in less than 12 months
reveal that some within the GOL are more than willing to exert
political pressure to try to influence the content of public media
in Latvia. End Comment

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