Reporters Without Borders condemns a break-in by unidentified intruders at the offices of the Riga-based daily Neatkariga Rita Avize (www.nra.lv) and its publishing house SIA Mediju Nams on the night of 1 January in which windows were broken, the offices of editors and leading reporters were badly damaged, and many files were destroyed or defaced.
“They tried to make us think it was an ordinary burglary but that is hard to believe,” a senior staff member told Reporters Without Borders.
“We are very shocked by the violence of this destructive attack, which poses a direct threat to the entire staff of Neatkariga Rita Avize,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge the authorities to pursue the investigation with the aim of identifying and arresting not only the perpetrators but also the instigators of this deliberate assault on press freedom.”
The organisation added: “Failure to punish those responsible would represent a serious breach of the rule of law in a European Union member country. We urge the police to ensure that all leads and all possible hypotheses are explored and to keep the newspaper updated about developments in the investigation.”
The motive appears to have been linked to stories covered by the newspaper, including political corruption and the influence of Latvian and Russian oligarchs. Three old monitors and a old laptop were stolen by the intruders although the newspaper has much more modern computer equipment. They did not take anything else and instead concentrated on destruction.
“These people knew our movements and our office hours,” SIA Mediju Nams CEO Armands Puce told Reporters Without Borders. “It is unusual for no one to be at the newspaper. Only the end of year festivities offered them this opportunity.”
Puce added: “This attack and the destruction of our equipment were carefully planned. The intruders entered via the emergency stairs which we share with the neighbouring building. As a result, they were able to avoid the security camera stationed outside the building and on the ground floor.”
Imants Liepins, a Neatkariga Rita Avize journalist and co-founder of an NGO called the Public Investigation Bureau, told Reporters Without Borders: “It is hard pinpoint the story or report that could account for the violence of this attack. Neatkariga Rita Avize has investigated many corruption scandals in the political and business world in recent years.”
“The newspaper also regularly covers the problems in the attorney-general’s office and many stories linked to Latvian and Russian oligarchs and their business and political interests,” added Liepins, who has recovered and gone back to work after being stabbed in the neck by an unidentified assailant a year ago. The police investigation into the stabbing drew a blank.