Latvia Union of Journalists and EFJ organised seminar on journalism in the Baltic States
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined the Latvia Union of Journalists (LŽS) in Riga, Latvia on 18 October 2023 to host a seminar on the threats and challenges faced by journalists and media workers in the Baltic States. The seminar was organised in the framework of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR). It put a spotlight on the similarities and differences in the media world in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania in terms of media freedom and violations of the right to freedom of expression.
Hosted at the NOASS art center on the Daugava River, the workshop was organised with Imants Liepinsh (journalists and board member of the Latvian Union of Journalists, LŽS) and moderated by Helle Tiikmaa, president of the Estonian Association of Journalists (EAL). It gathered 18 journalists and media workers working in the Baltic region.
The first part of the day was a roundtable during which journalists and unions shared common issues: censorship, alternative online journalism, harassment and lawsuits, amongst others.
After a roundtable on the situation of media freedom in the Baltic countries, speakers from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia discussed the main challenges they face. In Latvia, harassment, censorship and propaganda were touched upon with speakers Juris Paiders and Laima Linuža, who shared her experience as an editor-in-chief under threats. Dainius Radzevičius, journalist and president of the Lithuanian Journalists’ Union (LŽS), was joined by Ruslanas Irzikevicius, founder and editor-in-chief of the Lithuania Tribune, to discuss the issue of SLAPPs, journalists’ safety and government fundings, and the stigmatisation of Russian-speaking media. Tarmu Tammerk, media ombudsman at Estonian Public Broadcasting Company, talked about harassment especially harassment of female journalists, the role of the Press Council in the country, and Russian-speaking journalists and the difficulties they face.
Imants also pointed out the common issue of harassment of journalists, and the diminishing advertising income. Talking about the event, he commented:
“Discussions among journalists, editors, publishers and writers from the three Baltic countries, Belarus and the United States, representing all kinds of media roles, showed that — despite media environments in these countries being very different — there are some overarching problems that can affect journalists in almost every country.”
Ha added that the legal system does not always protect journalists and their employers in full capacity, mentioning that the law frequently gets “neglected” by the government when it should protect journalists.
“This has proven true not just in countries like Belarus and Russia, where democracy and rule of law does not exist, but has been documented by the MFRR in Latvia and Estonia as well.”