Latvia: little trust in the press

The economic crisis and the new media have made life very difficult for Latvia's media market. Most media have yet to see sales return to the pre-2008 level. The print media were hardest hit: subscriptions to the daily Diena, for example, fell by 70 percent. Advertising revenues dropped dramatically, partly because of the rising influence of online media. Only the second most popular daily, Latvijas Avize, managed to stay in the black.

Public trust in the media is steadily waning. Media ownership often lacks transparency, so readers can only guess who might be behind a newspaper or television station. Frequent changes of ownership and the fact that some owners use the media as a mouthpiece for their own interests has shaken people's faith in independent reporting.

In addition, the state has in recent years interfered in the work of Latvian journalists several times. One example was the so-called Neo case in 2010 when police confiscated the computer of the television journalist Ilze Nagla.

Nevertheless, the editors of most Latvian-language media enjoy autonomy vis-à-vis the publisher or owner. The situation in the Russian-language media is different. Both Russian-language newspapers MK Latvija and Vesti are close to the Harmony party, and the latter in turn is close to the Russian state. These newspapers tend to represent Russia's official position vis-à-vis the Baltic States.

Since a third of the population of Latvia is Russian-speaking, the Russian-language newspapers have a large readership. MK Latvija is Latvia's most popular newspaper.

According to the international NGO Freedom House too many media are in the hands of one owner, partly as a result of the media crisis. This concentration is most evident in the sphere of television. One third of the fifteen most popular TV channels belong to Baltijas mediju alianse (Baltic media alliance), a further third to the Swedish concern MTG.

In 2012, the bureau for investigative journalism re:baltica was founded in Riga, in order to promote independent reporting in the Baltic States. Its journalists now provide reports to all the most important Latvian newspapers and online portals.

Press Freedom Index:

Reporters without Borders: 28th place (2015)
Freedom House: 49th place (2014)