"Freedom of speech could become freedom to lie," warns Latvia's President Vējonis

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Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis entered the debate over what constitutes the right of free expression May 22, warning that electioneering ahead of a a parliamentary vote on October 6 could descend into propaganda and lies.

Speaking at an event organized by his office at Riga Castle, titled "13th Saeima elections - a test of democracy?" Vējonis said:

"Parliamentary elections are our chance to exercise self-determination, but it is also a time in which both internal and external forces can threaten the basis of our country's democracy. Our opponents will use the instruments of democracy to weaken it. Freedom of expression can become freedom to lie," said the President in the latest statement suggesting senior officials are expecting pre-election pressure to be exerted, most likely by Russia.

"I ask that we view the elections not as a game of sport with winners and losers, but as a question of security," the President added.

According to the LETA news agency, Vējonis also said he was "certain" the pre-election period would bring an attempts to undermine democracy.

"Democracy must be protected from those who wish to undermine it constantly. This is especially important during the pre-election period, as our Saeima is one of the pillars of our democracy... 'I am certain there will be such attempts - which is why it is important to speak about this now,'' Vējonis reportedly said.

''We will certainly be seeing smear campaigns, and many opinions - but little in regards to the issues. Our enemies will certainly try to use democracy against us,'' the president added.

''This will be a challenge on whether or not we are capable of countering threats to our democracy with democratic methods... In order for democracy to survive, we must remain active and cannot stand aside,'' he said.

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