Al-Jazeera correspondent barred from Latvia

  • 2004-04-22
  • Baltic News Service
MOSCOW - The Moscow office chief for the Al-Jazeera satellite television channel from Qatar has been refused a visa for entry to Latvia.

Akram Hazam of Al-Jazeera told the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti in Moscow, "I was preparing to go there to report on Latvia's EU accession."
Hazam said that he had submitted all his papers to the Latvian Embassy in Moscow two weeks ago but has now been refused entry for reasons unexplained.
"I believe that democracy in this country has most likely not yet reached the level for Latvia to join the EU. If a journalist is refused a visa, then they are scared of something." Hazam said, adding that he has had a Schengen visa in his passport for some time.
Interior Minister Eriks Jekabsons said that the decision to refuse a visa to Hazam was "grounded on serious arguments."
"The reason was quite substantiated, but I would not make any detailed comments because the security authorities are still looking in the matter," said the minister.
"And this has nothing to do with lack of democracy in Latvia or our unwillingness to have international mass media cover Latvia's celebration of the EU accession or developments around the education reform [in schools of ethnic minorities]," said Jekabsons.