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A scandal on Latvian media market: government has segregated the press into “one’s our” and “outsiders”

Over the last weeks the media market is “in fever”. The underlying reason - tender organised by the government under the title “Support to media in order to create a socially important content”. Functionaries have allocated 490 thousand euros to 12 periodicals, guided by very dubious criteria.

Some experts suspect that the scandal is politically tinted. The biggest Latvian press offices have published an open letter asking to rescind the scandalous tender. In its turn, the portal Pietiek.com has disclosed rather unattractive background of the state support to some selected mass media and journalists.

Pietiek.com is publishing a bare but expressive summary of facts and figures – who are those persons, that are planning to have the biggest amount of money on their bank accounts from the mid-April divided from taxpayer resources, what the government and our society will receive from it, how the money has been divided and who are those experts that have possibly voted in a conflict of interests situation.

Most well paid

The total amount of money, that has been requested as a payment from the taxpayers for certain journalists, that are involved in governmental commission’s accepted projects:
(one person in the same project can be included up to three times but in different roles and for each to receive several thousand euros, making a five digit number at the end)

Arta Giga, Red Dot Media (Nekā Personīga), officially specified functions: „ project manager, director, editor” – 14 400 euros

Ingus Berzins, Delfi, „ project manager” – 11 296 euros

Guna Gleizde, Delfi, „editor” – 11 189 euros

Filips Lastovskis, Delfi, „journalist” – 11 189 euros

Osvalds Zebris, Delfi, „Deputy Editor” – 9296 euros

Nellija Tjarve, Cits medijs (Ir), „Editor, project management” – 8680 euros

Gunita Gailane, Delfi, „journalist” – 7716 euros

Nora Rieksta-Kenge, Delfi, Deputy Editor Assistant – 7160 euros

Janis Domburs (from Domburs LLC), Delfi – 6000 euros

Indra Sprance, Cits medijs (Ir), „žurnālists” – 5570 euros

Inga Springe, Re:Baltica, „Lead author” – 4954 euros

Sanita Jemberga, Re:Baltica, „Administrative Manager of the project, editor” – 4411 euros

Aivars Ozolins, Cits medijs (Ir), „journalist” – 4200 euros

Janis Krevics, Red Dot Media (Nekā Personīga), program leader – 4100 euros

Ansis Pupols, Red Dot Media (Nekā Personīga), „ Program Host” – 3600 euros

Arnis Krauze, Red Dot Media (Nekā Personīga), „journalist” – 3600 euros

Pauls Raudseps, Cits medijs (Ir), „project managing” – 3360 eiro

Gundars Reders, LTV, “editor and screenwriter” – 3020 eiro

Ilze Jaunalksne, Red Dot Media (Nekā Personīga), „journalist” – 2100 eiro

Monthly reward records

The most generous monthly payments from the state budget that are going to be handed over to the journalists. This money for the content creators that have been favoured by the state commission is mentioned in the projects’ outlays.

1. Inga Springe, Re:Baltica, officially specified functions – „Lead author” – 2477 euros per month

2. Sanita Jemberga, Re:Baltica, „ Administrative Manager of the project, editor” – 2205 eiro mēnesī

3. Osvalds Zebris, Delfi, Deputy Editor – 1725 euros per month (+holiday pay)

4.-5. Guna Gleizde, Delfi, „editor” – 1725 euros per month

4.-5. Filips Lastovskis, Delfi, „journalist” – 1725 euros per month

6. Nora Rieksta-Kenge, Delfi, Deputy Editor Assistant – 1432 euros per month

7. Gunita Gailane, Delfi, „journalist” – 1286 euros per month

Money for the “independent” projects only

In fact, all the projects that have received government financial support in this tender have one thing in common – they are predictable and they don’t publish any topics or investigations that may be uncomfortable for politicians and officials. On the other hand there are a few exemptions and in project applications there are precisely listed areas which will be researched.

1. JSC Delfi – 116 000 euros (projects: “The temperature of the Latvian Municipalities 2017”, “Multimedia popular-science course of lectures about the Latvian history of culture, Latvia 2020”

2. LCC Red Dot Media – 70 000 euros (projects: “The theory of lies”, “TV publicistic/ journalistic movies”)

3. LCC Kurzemes vārds – 58 000 euros (project: “The power of the regional media”)

4. JSC Cits medijs – 45 000 euros (projects: “The investigative journalism IR – legitimacy, construction of shadow economy, abandoned children”, “Significant events IR – spot/see, understand,

5. LCC Vidzemes televīzija – 40 000 euros (project: TV discussion cycle “Shortly and Specifically” )

6. Ascendum Association – 31 000 euros (project: Web magazine “Satori.lv” the authors' diaries)

7. State-owned public service television company Latvijas Televīzija - 30 000 euros (project “The land of happiness”)

8.-12. Re:Baltica Association – 20 000 euros (project “who will protect Latvia after”)

8.-12. JSC Lauku Avīze – 20 000 euros (project: “Disclosure by showing fast illegitimacy of spreading disingenuous news as a regular and systematic characteristic in Latvian media” ).

8.-12. LCC Dienas mediji – 20 000 euros ( Project: “The news anatomy”)

8.-12. LCC Publishing house Dienas žurnāli – 20 000 euros (Project: “The symbols of Latvia’s Centenary” )

8.-12. LCC Publishing house Auseklis – 20 000 euros (project: “With roots in Latvia”)

“Unpredictable” critical, research projects – “Overboard”

Regarding the projects that have not been approved by the tender commission there is also one main tendency – most of them promised researches and disclosures but were not predictable enough in the subjects of their investigations.

Project “All clear, relevant facts in two minutes” – Latvijas Televīzija

Project “Modern lies” – Publishing house Rīgas viļņi

Project “The analysis of agricultural process in the context of sustainable development and government threat” - Analytical journalism workshop 6K

Project “Land, land, what is that land” – about the land reforms’ results in the last 25 years – Lauku Avīze

Project “Health care reform – on behalf of the patients’ and medical workers’ interests or only for the money economy?” - Lauku Avīze

Project “Documentary about the formation of the electricity market in Latvia since the independence restoration” – Latvian Television

Project “The monitoring of the Latvian culture in the eastern borderlands” - Cultural initiatives and implementations association”

Project “Daily research” - Dienas mediji

Project “School: the obstacle or instrument for integration” – Lauku Avīze

Project “Competent people – powerful state” – Latvijas Vēstnesis

Project “The regional media cooperation” – Kurzemes vārds

Project The newspaper’s Independent Morning Newspaper (Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze) attachment "To my motherland" – Mediju nams

Project “The reductants of independence are talking” – Latvijas Televīzija

Project “Latvia through the prism of the century” – Latvijas Televīzija

Project “Native as a country” – Latvijas Televīzija

Project public polemics section at a portal - Delfi

The conflicts of interest and active voting for “theirs”

It has been publicly stated about the commission members’ sympathy for “their owns”. While the other suspicions need more facts, the two of them are unquestionable. The member of commission Mr Andis Mizishs, as it is indicated in an open letter from the media, addressed to the Prime Minister, is the studio producer of the LTV broadcast 4 through the company Finger Film Production. He did not refrain from voting on LTV projects but had given them high ratings instead. While the member of commission Ms Sigita Kushnere, who in the past received a fee from JSC Lauku Avīze Newspaper in amount of 500 euros, gave very high ratings to the company’s projects. The information about both voters has already been evaluated by The Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB).

Anda Mizisha votes for LTV projects

Project “The land of happiness” – 70 points

Project “Documentary about the formation of the electricity market in Latvia since the independence restoration” – 63 points

Project “The reductants of independence are talking” – 65 points

Project “Latvia through the prism of the century” – 62 points

Project “Native as a country” – 67 points

Project “All clear, relevant facts in two minutes” – 85 points

Project “History teacher” – 64 points

Sigitas Kusneres votes for Lauku Avīze projects

Project “Disclosure by showing fast illegitimacy of spreading disingenuous news as a regular and systematic characteristic in Latvian media” – 75 points

Project “Land, land, what is that land” – about the land reforms’ results in the last 25 years – 61 points

Project “Health care reform – on behalf of the patients’ and medical workers’ interests or only for the money economy?” – 63 points

Project “School: the obstacle or instrument for integration” – 59 points

Which projects have gained the support

The projects’ descriptions that were given the government financial support in 10 thousand euros are not specified and they are not detailed enough, there are zero of convincing arguments about the importance of their intentions for government and society. Here are some fragments of the projects’ descriptions that were given a governmental financial support.

Delfi promises: with multimedia popular science course of lectures about the Latvian cultural history we will be able to ensure the feeling of belonging in our society within the confines Latvian Centenary, to prepare and to publish series of 20 lectures on Delfi homepage , where each lecture will include a video lecture of known specialist or authority and 4-6 added informative materials (including interactive). Only nine of possible lecture topics are mentioned in this application and only one of them has potential lectors. Despite of this, it is promised that “the new popular science free high-quality cultural content will be created on the Latvian Internet”.

Red Dot Media (Nekā Personīga) promises: the movie will document the day-to-day life of Vaira Vike-Freiberga after 10 years of her presidency end. International visits – the exiles’ Latvian song festival in Esslingen, Germany, to whom Ms Vike-Freiberga is a patroness and the meeting of the former leaders' with the next heads of countries/ ones in Sweden, where the former president was invited as guest of honour. It is also intended to document the private life of former Latvian president, visits to the Latvian regions, her memories of the most striking moments at this position and Latvian path to the European Union and NATO. Vaira Vike-Freiberga and musicians will also participate in the film sessions.
Cits medijs (Ir) promises: to show an approach in interpretation essential events to the society that has not been practised in Latvian journalism before – created by artists video animation, the type of comic book stories and „filing”, or a clearly structured information presented on the Internet in a concise way.

Delfi promises: With the help of multimedia analytical journalist publication cycle Latvia 2020 to ensure the Delfi ability to make a complex journalistic research and analysis about important/relevant social questions. There were no mentions of any topic that could serve as an example.

LTV promises: We want to create a programme which aim will be to deconstruct the lies and myths, to critically analyse information that comes from Russian media-sphere , that is reproduced and which is uncritically repeated in the Latvian media.

For example: According to the Central Statistical Bureau (CSP) data in the year 1990 there were 106 cars on 1000 Latvian inhabitants and 870 fatalities on roads. In 2015 there were 344 cars on the same amount which is 3 times more but the number of people killed on the roads almost 5 times less – 188. Experts analyse the reasons - the use of alcohol, road safety, the culture of driving.

Pietiek publishes the pack of documents that shows what projects and with what promises “the right” medias have got the state financing. Those are : Delfi, Latvian Television, Ir publishers, producers of “Nothing Personal”(Nekā personīga), as well as organization Re:Baltica. It also discloses the amount of state budget money that these “independent” and true journalists will gain.As it has already been mentioned the most greedy ones are: Arta Ģiga from”Nothing personal”(Nekā personīga), Ingus Bērzińš from Delfi, Inga Spriņģe from Re:Baltica and Nellija Tjarve from Ir.
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