• 2000-08-10
Freedom of the press accommodates the anti-Semitic article in the Kapitals August issue, an article a U.S. Embassy statement called "disgusting," an article Latvia's president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, condemned. At the same time, the contents of the article and the crude caricature on the cover of the magazine resonated with over a thousand Latvian-speakers who sent in messages to an online discussion bulletin board, most of which equaled or exceeded the sentiments of the piece in neo-Nazi flavor.

The Prosecutor General's Office is considering criminal charges. If the charges would be based on a violation of a "hate" law, that is one thing. But if the article resides on the prosecutor's desk because it stirred up a stink, that is wrong.

There isn't freedom of the press for you and me but not for them or "those people."

Freedom of the press is not owned only by those who agree with us - those who speak the same language, share the same culture and ideals.

Freedom of the press admits the freedom to write and publish bad journalism.

Freedom of the press - to publish a sad and offensive article based on religion and ethnicity, characterized by nudge, nudge, wink, wink innuendo and sophomoric exclamation marks, as well as faulty research - has given us insights into the severe problem Latvia has in dealing with its past.

Freedom of the press in this case will be squandered if it doesn't generate dialogue about the past - murder, mass graves, deportation, war, occupation, double deaths and victimization from double dictatorships. Dialogue is one of the most precious products of press freedom. If such articles as "Jews rule the world" don't stimulate two-sided dialogue leaving silence or soliloquy to reign, the end product of the hurt is only disgust.

The Kapitals piece hit most hateful stereotypes of Jews under the guise of congratulating Jews on their success in business. The "research" appears to have been cribbed from a neo-Nazi Web site. A list of "Jews who rule the world" includes David Rockefeller, a Baptist, long linked with the "Jewish conspiracy" that obsesses neo-Nazi types.

Still, the editor claims the article was positive in focus. Both he and the country's foreign minister, Indulis Berzins, say there is no anti-Semitic issue in Latvia. This denial is the saddest, most wasteful outcome of all.