Court upholds scandalous magazine ruling

A Riga court on Friday upheld its earlier decision to freeze the assets of trailblazing weekly news journal Ir - despite legislative changes on Thursday that will make any similar rulings in future impossible.

In a move likely to cause a fresh wave of condemnation from journalists' and transparency groups, Riga Central District Court dismissed attempts by the magazine to have its assets unfrozen.

On July 22 a ruling froze the assets of the magazine's parent company AS Cits Medijs, ahead of a defamation claim being brought against it by Maris Spruds, a bankruptcy adminisrator whose methods the magazine questioned in articles published 2013.

The original ruling, coming as it did before any consideration of whether the defamation action had any merit at all, caused huge controversy and had government officials promising to look into the matter.

Reacting to the new ruling the magazine's editor Nellija Locmele said: "The court's decision to retain the asset freeze is absurd. It cannot be the case that in Latvia there are courts that do not follow the constitution."

On Thursday the Latvian parliament or Saeima adopted legal amendments that would make similar rulings impossible. However, they do not come into force until November 1, leaving Ir in legal limbo, though it continues to be published every week.

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