Opinion polling center's director stabbed

  • 2002-07-18
  • Jorgen Johansson

The director of a Riga-based polling company was stabbed several times July 9 after entering his apartment building in what colleagues believe was an attack related to television ratings.

Kristaps Ulsts, the director of Baltic Media Facts, was stabbed in the leg, upper arm and abdomen and was in stable condition as of July 17, according to a spokeswoman at Riga's Gailezers Hospital.

Police have downgraded the attack from attempted murder to assault resulting in grievous bodily injuries, said police spokeswoman Ieva Zvidre.

Zvidre said three men attacked Ulsts as he and his wife entered the staircase of their apartment building.

"They asked if he was Kaspars and when he said 'yes' they jumped him," she said. "One of the attackers was armed with a big knife, but the others were unarmed."

Ulsts' wife, Vita Ulste, was pushed aside by the attackers and was not seriously injured. A colleague of Ulsts said her screams for help may have scared the men away and saved her husband's life.

Zvidre said police were investigating the attack but would not comment on possible motives or suspects.

Baltic Media Facts is a public opinion polling center which researches, among other things, the Latvian television market.

Aldis Paulins, director of the polling firm Baltic Data House, said results presented by Baltic Media Facts could swing the advertising market in Latvia.

"If, let's say, a television channel is made to look more popular, then they could raise their prices for commercials, and advertising companies would want to advertise more with this channel," Paulins explained. "TV ratings are also used as a base for advertising companies."

About $20 million is spent on advertising annually in Latvia.

Officials from the Latvian Advertising Association believe ad dollars and ratings were behind the attack.

"One television channel has been complaining for a long time about the information from Baltic Media Facts, and they have made threats to him in the past," said Andris Blaka, the association's president. "We cannot prove this, and I don't want to say which television channel it is."Paulins said Ulsts started receiving threats 18 months ago and reported those threats to the police.

For quite some time it stopped, but the threats began again last year in October.

"Ulsts called the police again about these threats and also about being followed," he said. "Police looked into it but could not find anything."

Zvidre confirmed that Ulsts had reported being threatened.

Ulsts began working as a researcher for Baltic Media Facts in 1993. He became director two years later.