Radio presenters leap to defense of editorial independence

Some of Latvia's best-known voices were in full cry July 13 for an unusual collaboration which they say is necessary to defend the editorial integrity and independence of public media.

In an unprecedented move, staff from all of the public Latvijas Radio (Latvian Radio) channels banded together to produce a video and audio segment that was broadcast on the airwaves and posted to social media channels including the YouTube channel of the youth radio station.

In the segment, they strongly criticize two members of the national media watchdog the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP), specifically Ivars Abolins and Gunta Lidaka, who had spoken of a "dramatic scene" in the administration of public radio and suggested sweeping changes need to be made to remedy allegedly poor management and politically-influenced figures.

This is rebutted in the firmest terms. The public statements of Abolins and Lidaka amount to an attempt to damage the reputation of Latvian Radio and such attempts to undermine public confidence in the national broadcaster even have implications in the context of national security, given the current examples of information war being directed at Latvia, the presenters say.

The radio presenters, whose voices will be familiar to thousands across the country, said they strongly objected to that characterization of their work, arguing instead that Abolins and Lidaka are the ones at fault.

A meeting between the two sides held Tuesday was a tempestuous affair, with the two sides apparently at loggerheads throughout.

That resulted in the sending of an open letter to NEPLP from Latvian Radio employees on July 12, which forms the basis of the text of the video and audio segment.

NEPLP posted a brief response on its website saying the letter was itself an attempt to exert political pressure on NEPLP and was "contrary to the electronic media law". 

However, the manner in which radio staff have gone public against their regulator suggests this will not be the last confrontation over the future direction of public service media in Latvia. 

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[NOTE: LSM English is part of the same umbrella public service organization as Latvian Radio and Latvian TV. We were not contacted by any of those concerned or instructed to cover the release of the video. This was an independent editorial decision.]

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