RIGA - Journalist Lato Lapsa turned to Security Police on April 18 after receiving a death threat over his unfinished biography of Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs. Lapsa, who is currently working on the book with co-author Kristine Jancevska, said he received an anonymous letter threatening to "kill or severely injure" both writers.
He found the letter in his mailbox on April 16.
This is the third suspicious letter that Lapsa has received since beginning his book and the first that he has taken seriously. "This time there are open and unmistakable threats," the journalist said.
Although he has no idea who the author of the letter may be, Lapsa pointed out that lately Lembergs had made several negative comments about his book.
Lembergs has been increasingly visible on the national scene in recent weeks, which many believe is part of the mayor's plans to enter national politics during the parliamentary election this October.
Lembergs was reportedly infuriated by Lapsa's statement and retorted by calling the journalist an "incredibly arrogant person."
Yet the mayor is convinced that Lapsa's primary motive was the promotion of his book. The only alternative, he said, was that the journalist "suffers from an inflated sense of importance by assuming an influence over big politics."
In a statement to the press, Lembergs said that, abiding by the usual methods of "black PR," an unprecedented publicity campaign involved various activities and radio advertisements has been launched against him. This campaign has a substantial budget, he pointed out, and Lapsa's activities played an integral part.
If Lapsa had any regard for the truth, Lembergs said, he would have attempted to establish personal contact with the "protagonist of his book, who lives here in Latvia, in Ventspils, and sometimes is also available in Riga."
"But Lapsa has not talked to me 's he has not even tried to. Is this impartial journalism?" Lembergs asked.
Lapsa was quick to counter the Ventspils mayor, saying the authors of the threat-letter could also be Lembergs' enemies.
Still, he admitted that his book could impact the election results if, that is, Lembergs decides to run for Parliament. The text includes several facts that the oligarch mayor might want to keep behind closed doors.
Lapsa stressed that he would finish the book and publish it despite the threat. The biography will most likely be printed before the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for this October.
Looking at the letters from another angle, Lapsa said they could possibly work in his favor - as a sort of advertisement. However, he emphasized that his book did not need such promotion. The only reason he publicized the news of his threats, the author said, was to show those behind the scheme that it was pointless, and would not prevent the book from being published.
For the time being, Lapsa and Jancevska have not asked for bodyguards, but have thought about leaving Latvia for a short period, until things cool down.
Security Police representative Kristine Apse Krumina confirmed that investigators are currently looking into the case.