Legal Aid Service provides bro bono legal assistance to journalists facing threats, attacks, restrictions, or judicial pressure which encroach upon journalistic freedom.
Legal Aid Service has established a national network of five law firms with strong expertise in media law. These firms have agreed to provide pro bono legal aid and litigation services to strengthen the autonomy and legal protection of journalists:
- COBALT (https://www.cobalt.legal/lv)
- Sorainen (https://www.sorainen.com/lv/kontakti/)
- Azanda & Asssociates (https://www.azanda.lv/lv/)
- Rasa, Ešenvalds and Radziņš (https://rer.legal)
- Sworn advocate Ilona Bulgakova (https://www.bulgakova.lv)
Free legal aid for journalists is provided both as general advice and representation in a specific matter regardless of whether the matter has been initiated by the media or against the media. Strategic litigation to set important precedents for the media industry is a top priority.
All journalists and media outlets may apply for legal aid. But as the capacity to provide free legal aid is limited, each application is considered individually and may be accepted or rejected as the Legal Aid Service sees fit in its sole discretion.
General criteria for consideration for media outlets:
- Media outlet registered in Latvia or another country, but the legal problem is within the jurisdiction of Latvia.
- Media outlet is independent, objective, does not deal with misinformation.
- Media outlet has not acted contrary to the law.
- Media outlet does not employ a lawyer or legal service in the field of media law that is required to solve a legal problem.
- The financial situation of the media does not allow to receive professional legal assistance to solve a legal problem.
- Priority is given to the cases where freedom of the press is threatened.
General criteria for consideration for journalists:
- Complies to the institutional or functional definition of a journalist.
- The legal problem is in the jurisdiction of Latvia.
- The journalist has not acted against professional and ethical norms of journalism, with exception if such action has been in the best interest of society.
- The employer or the media outlet of the journalist does not provide, does not adequately provide, or is not able to provide professional support in the concrete legal problem or such support is not possible because of the conflict of interest.
- Priority is given to the cases where the safety of a journalist is threatened.
- Priority is given to the journalists who are members of the Latvian Journalists’ Association.
If the matter is initiated by third parties or they threaten to start the matter. Priority will generally be given to the cases that involve:
- Investigative journalism;
- Claim to uncover sources of information;
- Accusations for defamation;
- Illegal processing of personal data;
- Compensation for moral damage;
- Claim for withdrawal of false and defamatory news.
If the matter is initiated by journalist or media outlet, priority will be given to the cases that involve:
- Investigative journalism;
- Protection of sources;
- Access to information;
- Restrictions of the realization of professional duties;
- Obstruction of the realization of professional duties;
- The case falls within the jurisdiction of the Latvian Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights.
Each application of a journalist or media outlet will be reviewed by a commission consisting of Egita Karlsone, the Head of the Legal Aid Service, Linda Bīriņa, the Legal head of the Service, and Iļja Kozins, the chairman of the board of the Latvian Journalists’ Association.
For information, please contact Egita Karlsone by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For legal help, please fill the application: https://forms.gle/XEMHyggYh6homWht7
The UNESCO Global Media Defence Fund has provided financial support for the establishment of the Service.
“The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The author is responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained in this publication and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.”