No media law changes without press support, minister promises

Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnačs attempted to damp down opposition to proposed amendments to laws governing the way media go about their work Wednesday, pledging that no new laws would be adopted without press support.

(National Association).

Speaking on LTV's Rita Panorama news show, Rasnačs said the lack of consultation with media groups during the drafting of the amendments up to this point was an oversight that would be rectified.

A Justice Ministry working group has drawn up proposed amendments to the Press Law that would further restrict what could be reported from trials while they are taking place, effectively introducing severe restrictions on reporting how the proceedings are being conducted until a verdict has been delivered.

In addition, journalists would have to get written permission from officials to report on a case during its pre-trial stage.

The proposals have received sharp criticism from journalists who believe they would severely restrict the press' duty to inform the public about trials.

In its defense, the Ministry of Justice says its proposals are in line with EU laws protecting the rights of defendants until a verdict is given.

Rasnačs explained that amendments to the press law would be taken only after consultation with the Latvian Journalists' Union and Latvian Association of Journalists and admitted that such consultations should already have taken place during the drafting process.

"The Justice Ministry has made a mistake," he said, "There should always be consultations with Non-Governmental Organizations during the preparation of new laws. That hasn't happened, which is why we are taking these proposals back for another look."

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