NEPLP: "It is an attack on media independence!"

19.06.2015 15:38
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It is not surprising that several Saeima deputies had the idea to fire members of the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP). When meeting with the deputies, we often encountered expressive reproofs targeted at specific broadcasts on Latvian Television (LTV) or Latvian Radio (LR). We usually swept such remarks "under the carpet", as media editorial independence has always been one of the NEPLP's priorities. It is possible that this is exactly what has damaged our reputation so far that, in the opinion of these politicians, the Council must be sacked without any obvious reason.

We believe that there are three main reasons why these politicians have decided to do so:

First of all, the NEPLP’s categorical position with regard to the editorial independence issue of public media – LTV and LR. It is noteworthy that dissatisfaction with the NEPLP's performance was like a snowball effect that kept growing as LTV and LR were becoming stronger.

Secondly, the NEPLP's position with regard to distribution of tax payers' money in favor of commercial media at the expense of public media. Commercial media lobbies have expressed open indignation about it, and the recent "scandal" surrounding LR5 – Pieci.lv was the consequence of this.

Thirdly, for years the NEPLP has fought for separating the functions of the NEPLP, as media market czar, from the functions NEPLP performs as LTV and LR's shareholder. Politicians have known this problem for a long time, and the NEPLP has offered solutions; however, no action has ever taken place. Furthermore, this is Saeima's fault that this situation has not seen any solutions. It seems that politicians favor a model where the NEPLP is involved in a conflict of interest.

Public "arguments" about the NEPLP’s squandering, while referring to the State Audit Office's resolution, are unjustified, absurd, and untrue, as the conditions listed in the State Audit Office's report concern LTV and LR as company budgets, instead of NEPLP as an independent institution, which has been consequently cutting its budget expenditure over the last years, including giving up the institution's automobiles, thus significantly reducing transportation costs. Furthermore, not a cent from the transportation costs was spent for private reasons.

Likewise, drawing attention to one LR5 – Pieci.lv show (NEPLP's lawyers are reviewing this show and preparing a respective report according to the Electronic Mass Media Law, and deputies know of this), of course, is only a loud pretext, nothing more.

The NEPLP is part of a democratic and just independent state media, especially public media. This is why the law stipulates very specific cases where it is possible to fire the NEPLP's members. As we see, none of them have taken place. However, the Council is not the main target for politicians. The next ones in "line" will be LTV and LR as independent public media unless, of course, there are circumstances that will turn LTV and LR into "men of honor" in the eyes of the politicians. We hope that this will not happen! The political attack on the NEPLP is in fact aimed at Latvia's public media, as the issue actually concerns LTV and LR's money, editorial independence, and thus, independent journalism. We are certain that the European Broadcasting Union and Latvian partners in the European Union and NATO as a whole will keep a watch on this matter.

Sincerely,

Chairman of NEPLP Ainārs Dimants, Vice-Chairperson of NEPLP Aija Dulevska, Member of NEPLP Dainis Mjartāns, Member of NEPLP Ivars Zviedris