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Latvian journalist in criminal court for comparing a politician to Baron Münchhausen

Latvian journalist in criminal court for comparing a politician to Baron Münchhausen

MLDI is supporting the defence of Latvian journalist, Gunta Sloga, in a criminal defamation case brought against her by Aleksandrs Mirskis, a member of the European Parliament.

In 2009, the Latvian journalist Gunta Sloga published a report on Aleksandrs Mirskis, a politician and currently Member of the European Parliament for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Entitled “Grāfs Mirskis Minhauzens”, the report discussed Mirskis’s background and questioned, amongst other things, whether his military background really was as distinguished as he claimed. The title of the report linked him to Baron Münchhausen, a German nobleman who was renowned for the many fantastic and impossible adventures he told about himself. The report was picked up by other media and received a lot of publicity.

All in all, Ms Sloga did not paint a flattering picture of Mirskis and he lodged complaints for defamation against her. Criminal proceedings were soon brought and, following a lengthy process, the Jurmalas City Court finally acquitted her in July 2011.

Mr Mirskis appealed the Jurmala City Court’s judgment and the case is now pending before the Riga Court of Appeals. If found guilty, Ms Sloga faces a fine, compulsory labour or imprisonment.

MLDI supports the defence of Ms Sloga. We find it incredible that in the 21 century, and in a member state of the European Union, a journalist can still be hauled in front of the criminal courts for doing no more than publishing a decent investigative story.

Ms Sloga’s report constitutes the legitimate exercise of her right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights as well as under the Latvian constitution.

We call on the Riga Court of Appeals to dismiss the matter. Our detailed statement in the case, as submitted to the Court, can be downloaded here (in English).

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