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Cablegate: Latvia: Journalists, Editor Leave Latvia's Leading Daily

VZCZCXRO8188
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHRA #0510 2860649
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 130649Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6092
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS RIGA 000510

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: ECON PHUM KPAO LG
SUBJECT: LATVIA: JOURNALISTS, EDITOR LEAVE LATVIA'S LEADING DAILY
1. SUMMARY: The editor-in-chief of Latvia's leading daily newspaper
Diena and several other journalists resigned on Oct. 9 after
learning that the company's new owner is a wealthy family from Great

Britain. The editors had been locked in a standoff with the
company's CEO, Alexandrs Tralmaks, since his company purchased the
newspaper publisher in July. The departing journalists are expected
to reconstitute themselves in a new media outlet. Uncertainty about
the future of Diena, most independent, and objective news outlet,
and its editorial independence remain. END SUMMARY
2. On Friday, Nellija Nocmele, editor in chief of the publishing
house Dienas mediji, and Anita Brauna, editor in chief of its
primary newspaper, 'Diena, submitted their resignations along with a
dozen journalists. Among those who left the paper were several
senior reporters and the American-born Pauls Raudseps, the paper's
editorial page editor and one of its founders. In an online blog set
up after the resignation, the journalists cited "serious differences
regarding the future of the newspaper" as their main reason for
leaving.

3. The Bonnier group, which owned the publishing enterprise for 19
years, announced on July 3 that it had sold the publisher to the
Luxembourg-based Nedela S.A., led by Aleksanders Tralmaks, a former
CEO of Diena. At that time, Tralmaks did not identify the
investors in the new management company, raising questions about the
motivation for the purchase, and concerns that the new owners would
try to exercise influence over the editorial policy of Latvia's most
respected newspaper. In September, the Editors publicly told
Tralmaks that they would resign unless the names of the investors
were fully disclosed.

4. Tralmaks announced on Friday that a wealthy British family, The
Rowlands, had become the primary owners. According to reports, the
Rowland family had previously provided a loan so Tralmaks' company
Nedela S.A. could buy the newspapers, but the loan has been
restructured to show the Rowland family as owners. The
announcement, however, did not satisfy the departing journalists.

5. After leaving the newspaper, the editors, and several journalists
met at a nearby coffee shop to discuss their future. No
announcements have been made, but it is widely believed that the
editors and journalists have discussed forming a new media outlet.

6. COMMENT: While Latvian newspapers enjoy freedom from government
interference, their editorial policies and reporting tend to be
heavily influenced by owners. Diena, however, has a reputation for
being Latvia's most independent, and objective news outlet. The
sale of the paper and the subsequent departure of so many of its
leaders raise concerns that the newspaper will lose its independent
voice, or its good reputation. Since the purchase, the editors have
kept their editorial freedom, often criticizing Tralmaks on their
opinion pages. Whether that freedom will continue into the future
is unclear. END COMMENT

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