Officials spread fake story about refugee crime in Latvia

Take note – story published 8 years ago

Over the weekend, a story spread over social networks about an alleged mugging in the Mucenieki asylum seeker center. The police hadn't reacted to it, the story went on, presumably as the culprits were believed to be asylum seekers at the center. Latvian Radio on Monday traced the spurious story's roots to an anonymous comment on a news piece, but not before it was shared by several officials.

Elita Dombrava, a career consultant at the National Employment Agency's Youth Guarantee program, describes herself on Twitter as a journalist, a career mentor, a talent manager, lecturer, author and screenwriter.

She's also the mother of Jānis Dombrava, a National Alliance board member and MP, but is not a member of said party. 

On Sunday evening she tweeted (the tweet is now removed) that "Immigrants silenced a 17-year-old girl and took away her phone at a public transportation stop by the Mucenieki center. The police didn't even come."

The tweet was shared some 50 times until Monday morning. The State Police asked her for more information. She didn't reply to the request, but in a later Tweet revealed her source to be a diary at the Latvian social network The diary specifically stated the source to be a comment on a news story. 

Police spokesman Toms Sadovskis confirmed the allegations to be false. "The police has no information about the possible crimes in Mucenieki [..]. Therefore the circulated information can be said to be absolutely untrue." he stated.

Even though the diary entry contains several comments vowing to unleash revenge upon the 'perpetrators', Dombrava denies that she wanted to spark dissent. "[..] Perhaps I have been mistaken at such a moment, perhaps [tweeting the story] was an emotional reaction," she said.

The entry was retweeted by Jānis Iesalnieks (National Alliance), Parliamentary Secretary at the Justice Ministry. He admitted he was mistaken. "No facts are known to me. That's why I cancelled my retweet after reading the discussion with a reply by the State Police," he said.

Secretary of the Central Election Committee Ritvars Eglājs also removed his retweet and informed his followers about the fictitious nature of the story. 

This is the first case when disinformation about refugees - as prevalent on the Latvian web as it is elsewhere - was spread about an alleged event taking place in Latvia.

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