'Organized campaign' against anti-spy amendments claims senior official

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An "organized campaign" has been initiated aimed at quashing proposed amendments to the Criminal Law aimed at better preventing hybrid threats, Saeima Speaker Inara Murniece (National Alliance) told Latvian Television Wednesday.

She emphasized that the mentioned amendments do not affect freedom of speech and that they are aimed at countering espionage. She added that a well organized campaign has been initiated aimed at quashing the proposed amendments, though she gave no details of who might be organizing it, why and how.

As she explained, the current legislation in this area is ineffective. In order to initiate criminal proceedings against someone for spying, it is basically necessary to get a acknowledgement from foreign intelligence services that this person has been given the task to spy in Latvia and it must be proven that these reports have been used against Latvia's interests.

Essentially, spies must admit their own guilt - a somewhat unlikely scenario.

Murniece said the law amendments are aimed at strengthening the state.

As reported, the parliament’s legal committee on April 5 rejected the proposal to lift the urgency status for amendments to the Criminal Law intended to counter hybrid war threats. Urgent bills are adopted by the parliament in two readings instead of the regular three readings.

Gaidis Berzins (National Alliance), the chairman of the committee, said the committee still had time to revise all proposals and perfect the bill before the final reading at the parliament which has been postponed from April 7 to April 21.

On April 5 the committee revised several proposals and supported punishment for a public call against Latvia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. But a number of other proposals still have to be discussed by the committee before the bill can be put to the parliamentary vote.

LETA also reported there are concerns the legislative amendments include clauses that may cause restriction of fundamental rights. For example, criminalizing unauthorized access to state secrets can be interpreted broadly, raising concerns about freedom of speech among journalists and opportunities for whistleblowing in the public interest.

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