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Latvia: disproportionate defamation fine against Tvnet.lv can chill media freedom

Statement
Strasbourg 26/01/2017
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The decision of the Riga Higher Court to impose a 50,000 euros fine on the portal Tvnet.lv for damaging the reputation of the National Opera with an opinion article can have a deleterious impact on media freedom and public speech in Latvia.

Though the appeal decision has reduced the fine levied on the media outlet, it remains disproportionally high in the Latvian context.

Striking the adequate balance between the right to protect reputation and that of ensuring freedom of expression is not an easy task, but it is essential to avoid undermining free speech. To this effect, defamation and libel must be dealt with through proportionate civil sanctions only, in line with the European Court’s case-law