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President Levits marks World Press Freedom Day

Latvian officials took a moment May 3 to express support for journalists and journalism on World Press Freedom Day.

President Egils Levits led the way, tweeting in English.

But this was just part of a string of tweets on the subject of freedom of speech in which he said:

"FreedomOfSpeech must be as unrestricted as possible. It should be at the sole discretion of democratically elected legislature, which must respect specific views of people expressed on public platforms and define absolutely clear criteria for countering factual disinformation.

"Legal persons, i.e. global platforms, and officials must be held liable for any attempts to infringe upon freedom of speech. We must protect the greatest gift of the Enlightenment and democracy - our freedom of speech and freedom of thought, the building blocks of humanism.

"We must, therefore, lead other nations around the world, which value their rule of law and take active stance against overt and “creeping” censorship of free speech and freedom of thought. We support freedom and human rights. We do not support censorship."

World Press Freedom Day 2021

Levits also released a longer statement on the subject on the presidential website which reads:

As we celebrate the World Press Freedom Day today, we must remember that freedom of speech is the basic component of human personality and humanism, which are undermined by authoritarian regimes and “well-meaning” anonymous social media “content administrators” and automated algorithms alike.

Freedom of speech must be as unrestricted as possible.  In case of countries governed by the rule of law, it should be at the sole discretion of democratically elected legislature, which must respect the specific views of people expressed on public platforms and define absolutely clear criteria for countering factual disinformation, as well as guaranteeing efficient access to justice through independent national authorities and courts.

Legal persons, i.e. global platforms, and officials must be held liable for any attempts to infringe upon freedom of speech.

We must protect the greatest gift of the Enlightenment and democracy - our freedom of speech and freedom of thought, the building blocks of humanism.

Given its totalitarian past, and the occupation, this issue is specifically important for Latvia. We must, therefore, lead other democratic nations around the world, which value their rule of law and take active stance against overt and “creeping” censorship of free speech and freedom of thought - this equally aplies to online outlets - irrespective of who does it. We support freedom and human rights. We do not support censorship.

Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs noted the role of independent journalism in countering propaganda:

As previously reported by LSM, Latvia currently ranks 22nd in the World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders, and the recently-announced list of state honors is notable for including the names of several well-known journalists.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Press Freedom Day theme is “Information as a Public Good” and "serves as a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information as a public good, and exploring what can be done in the production, distribution and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind. The theme is of urgent relevance to all countries across the world. It recognizes the changing communications system that is impacting on our health, our human rights, democracies and sustainable development."

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