Democratic deficiency

  • 2002-10-31
  • Peter McDermott
I find the so-called "leaflet scandal" very disturbing since it appears Latvia has slander laws that severely hinder democracy (TBT # 327).

Here's how I understand the story: Some years ago as a Latvian government employee, Andris Skele oversaw the privatization of a series of companies to an offshore company that he may or may not have owned. Suddenly, he was one of the wealthiest prime ministers in Europe.

Mr. Skele was not prosecuted and he professes his innocence, but there are more than a few people who remain suspicious of his dealings.

Now, in 2002, two individuals distribute leaflets that label Skele a thief.

What happens next? The prosecutor springs into action and is pressing "slander" charges against the distributors.

Each could face up to three years in prison, a downright barbaric punishment for what is in most countries a civil offense.

The outcome will serve as a demonstration of whether Latvia deserves to be regarded as a modern democracy.

Peter McDermott,
Riga, Latvia

 

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