Accountability systems

In Latvia there is no single code of ethics binding on the entire media sector. In 2017 the action plan of the Latvian Media Policy Guidelines for 2016–2020 (the Guidelines) envisages the drafting of proposals to promote a sectoral agreement (or at least involving a majority of the sector) on common ethical standards thus making the theme topical in the media environment and raising professional ethical standards.

As noted earlier, a code of ethics was approved by the Latvian Journalists’ Union in 1992, but it is both excessively general and out of date. The Latvian Journalists’ Association also has its code of ethics. The issue of journalistic ethics has been widely discussed in mission statements, visions and goals voiced by individual media outlets. One of the first to publish its own code of ethics was the newspaper Diena. Media codes of ethics tend to differ and they are not always publicly available, for example being published on the websites of the media.

The rights and obligations of journalists are also enshrined in general terms in the Law on the Press and other Mass Media (the Press Law). Among other things, the law says that “the editor shall be responsible for the content of materials published in his or her mass medium.”

The action plan of the Guidelines foresees support for the media sector to organise itself in the establishment of a media ombudsman in 2018. This would be a mechanism for handling individual complaints about journalists’ compliance with professional and ethical standards. This would promote media accountability and strengthen society’s critical thinking regarding media content. A common media ombudsman for the sector would permit the resolution of conflicts whereby people portrayed in the media consider there has been a breach of ethical or professional standards. If the alleged infringement has taken place in the electronic media, it can be investigated by the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) but at present there is no institution to which people can turn to with complaints about content in the written press. (Not all journalists are members of an association with a binding code of ethics.)

In 2016 the Ministry of Culture proposed a draft law on the public service media and its management which included the idea for a separate public service media ombudsman.