Cabinet moves to outlaw filming of "critical infrastructure"

Latvia's cabinet of ministers on June 6 backed proposals that would prevent people photographing, filming or even drawing buildings and other facilities deemed to be "critical infrastructure".

In among a raft of proposals from the Interior Ministry governing the recruitment, training and security vetting of guards for "critical infrastructure items" which might include power stations and military facilities, is a clause saying that permission from the owner will need to be obtained for the "filming, photography or any other kind of documentation" of sites where a sign saying "Filming and photography prohibited" is displayed.

According to the National Security Law, "critical infrastructure" has a very broad definition, being "assets, systems or parts thereof which are essential to fulfilment of an important public function, as well as the protection of human health, safety, economic or social well-being and the destruction or malfunction of which would significantly affect the working of state functions."

Under such a definition hospitals, TV studios, computer servers, government offices, banks and many other locations might be considered critical infrastructure. 

The restrictions are required to counter potential terrorist attacks, the ministry believes.

"State security authorities and the information and experience of other countries show that before terrorist acts or other forms of significant risks, persons carried out intelligence activities, filming, photographing or otherwise documenting potentially targeted facilities... Consequently, there will continue to be the need to regulate filming and photographing of critical infrastructure with its owner or legal possessor," the cabinet statement said.

The summary of the proposals by the cabinet office did not specify whether any distance restrictions applied, or if they applied only to persons within the critical infrastructure facility itself - and with the catch-all "any other kind of documentation" proviso, it would in theory be illegal to do a painting, sketch or sound recording too. 

However, as the proposals must be submitted to parliament for consideration, such details will presumably be clarified.

The proposals also include powers to impose restrictions on filming and photography in "hazard situations" such as a bomb threat or hostage situation.


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