Journalists work in a fairly free and safe environment, but access to trustworthy and pluralistic information, especially by the Russian-speaking population, has been a serious issue.
Alongside the public media (Latvian Television, Latvian Radio), there are strong private (TV3 Group, DELFI, Re:Baltica, etc.) and local media. Several media outlets seeking more freedom have moved from Russia to Latvia. The majority of TV channels broadcasting from Russia have been forbidden due to accusations of violating Latvian and EU laws.
Media enjoy independence, and investigative and analytical journalism thrives, allowing journalists to hold politicians accountable. Although the access to public information is wide, transparency has been limited due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic and to Russia’s warfare. The media regulator has been criticized for lack of independence from the government.
The legal framework guarantees freedom of the press, confidentiality of journalistic sources and access to public information. Journalists are uncensored. In most cases, their representatives are involved in consultations about new legislation impacting their work. If the media are the target of legal action, the courts are likely to rule in favor of freedom of the press. Ethical issues are addressed by the Media Ethics Council and the ombudsman. The ill-justified withdrawal of the licence of TV Dojd, a Russian channel in exile, by the media authority in 2022 further increased concerns about the survival of Russian media in Latvia.
Both private and public media struggle with insufficient funding. As for local media, some of them have to compete with news outlets funded by the municipality, whose content is now more strictly controlled. Media ownership is generally transparent and does not raise concerns about market dominance, but more diversity would be favorable to media pluralism. Before elections, politicians regularly attempt to access the ownership of certain media and discredit independent journalists.
Media generally operate in Latvian and Russian. However, the pressure on the Russian-language Latvian press is increasing due to the war in Ukraine. Because of revoked broadcast licences, the Russian-speaking population is left with fewer choices, and their access to information is a real problem. Since the war in Ukraine, the circulation of fake news has increased and the overall trust in the media has declined.
Journalists work in a generally safe environment, but are subject to verbal attacks on the street and online. Although the police have signed a memorandum on the protection of journalists, there are concerns as to the efficiency of its application. In the run-up to elections, political attacks on the media and attempts to discredit them tend to multiply.