Journalists' association requests apt evaluation for broadcast regulator

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The Latvian Journalists' association (LJA) has called for a systematic evaluation of the work of the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEMMC, or NEPLP in Latvian). The LJA has argued for creating a public commission for this task and is prepared to send its own representative for this task. 

As well as acting as broadcast watchdog with the power to take action if illegal or inappropriate material is broadcast, the NEMMC is also in overall charge of the funding of public broadcasting in Latvia, including the LSM news portals in Latvian, Russian and English.

After four Saeima factions filed a submission calling for the dismissal of the NEMMC, the LJA called a meeting by all four faction leaders or their deputies with the members of the NEMMC, heads of public service media and members of the journalists' association. None of the politicians showed up to justify their requests to fire the NEMMC.

The association stressed that the NEMMC is an important link in the media communication with the lawmaker and the political powers. Unmotivated attacks against the NEMMC show that politicians have an agenda to influence the independence of the media.

The LJA admitted that evaluating the economic performance of the NEMMC is within the competence of Saeima. However, it should be evaluated separately from the regulator's media supervision efforts in the whole field.

That's why the LJA calls for creating a public commission to evaluate the performance of the NEMMC on multiple levels, and is ready to offer its own representative. The LJA invites other media-related public organizations to support this evaluation and to participate in it.

The LJA asks the members of the Saeima to start drafting amendments to the Electronic Mass Media Law to mark off the NEMMC’s responsibility for commercial media, which creates a conflict of interest for the council as an owner of shares in public service media. 

The LJA has appealed to the OSCE representative on freedom of the media and the European Broadcasting Union, calling attention to attempts to dismiss a media regulator hastily and without sufficient backing.

It is the opinion of the LJA that the parliament has disregarded a Council of Europe recommendation about the independence and functions of a broadcasting regulator, as well as a recommendation about the independence of public service media.

In mid-June, a number of MPs signed a submission to fire the NEMMC's governing council. Ainārs Dimants, the leader of the council, considers the move to be politically-motivated.

Previously, the NEMMC had issued an open letter claiming that the move to overthrow the governing council is a plot to transfer control over the media in the politicians' hands. 

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