OSCE: asset freeze 'threatens media pluralism'

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A senior representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has criticised a move by a Latvian court to freeze the assets of a leading news journal. 

In a statement issued July 1, the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic expressed concern about the decision to freeze the assets of Ir magazine, based on a pending hearing of a defamation claim.

“I welcome Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s call on the court to justify their decision and to dispel concerns about pressure on the independent media,” Mijatovic said.

“Freezing assets of a media outlet may threaten its existence and is a disproportionate response. As a result, media pluralism can be negatively affected.”

On July 31 the Riga Central District Court issued an order freezing assets worth almost €23,000 of the magazine’s publisher, Cits Medijs. The court order followed the filing of a civil lawsuit by insolvency administrator Maris Spruds who claimed that he had been libelled in investigative articles published by the magazine in 2012.

“I hope taking this extraordinary measure will not set a dangerous precedent to silence media voices,” Mijatovic said.

The court's decision has met with heavy criticism from local and international journalism groups, prompting Straujuma's prosmise to look into the matter.

Media lawyer Linda Burina has expressed concern that the decision was not legally justified and could constitute "an attempt by the courts to help silence the media." 

 

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