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News Service of Latvijas Radio requests board members to step down

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOn Wednesday, 10 July, the News Service of Latvijas Radio detailed no trust the board of Latvijas Radio in an open letter. Members of the board have been asked to either step down or brace for dismissal.

On top of that, the News Service has asked Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) to not only dismiss the board of Latvijas Radio but also avert a crisis in the media. Authors of the letter also ask Saeima committee responsible for this field to assess NEPLP competence in governance of public radio station.

Journalists of Latvijas Radio accuse the board of inaction, having no interest in a strong and independent radio and actively weakening the News Service. According to authors of the letter, the board ‘has intentionally acted in a malicious way, weakening the News Service, which plays one of the leading roles in keeping residents safe and informed’.

Authors also mention that since 2018, eight professional journalists have left the News Service. They also stress that an independent audit performed this year has shown that the workload of New Service journalists is 123%. Unfortunately, the board of Latvijas Radio has done nothing to resolve the problem with workload in different structure units of Latvijas Radio. The board also refused to increase wages for journalists.

To resolve the crisis in the News Service, it was decided to reduce content and terminate one job, which helped increase wages for remaining journalists by EUR 60 before taxes. The initial agreement reached with the board included restoring the previously closed job before the beginning of the autumn season, but the board refused, authors of the letter report.

On top of that, the board of Latvijas Radio proposed abolishing night news, which is something the News Service is not prepared to do. Additionally, Latvijas Radio’s the future of investigative programme Īstenības izteiksme is at risk.

«The News Service has stressed to the board that in a time when the situation in the world is unstable, Latvijas Radio should not limit its own capabilities of informing society of threats. On top of that, the News Service believes the board’s proposal does not inspire confidence in their desire to strengthen our country’s information space,» the letter details.

The board also offered to abolish News Service’s motivation system and divide the EUR 4 000 intended for it on wages for journalists. However, the News Service does not believe this will help resolve the wage problem, «because journalists would receive the same wages but do more work than their contracts allow».

At the same time, wages of members of the board of Latvijas Radio have grown 18% since they took office, reaching EUR 5 000 a month, authors of the letter note. The board also refused to dismiss two advisors whose wages reach several thousand euros.

«This does not represent signs of solidarity, because wages of workers in Latijas Radio was increased by an average of 8% last year, which did not return wages to their pre-crisis period, when wages were decreased by 30 – 50%,» authors of the letter say.

«At the beginning of the year, the board, misleading and reporting manipulated information to employees of Latvijas Radio, attempted to push through changes to the collective agreement that would not benefit workers. Considering NEPLP political influence, instability of boards in public media, as well as the inability to ensure financial independence for public media for years, the collective agreement is the only stable social guarantee; it also secures a strong trade union, which is a very significant guarantee of independence for public media. Among the changes the board wanted to include in the collective agreement was a point regarding taking away benefits from workers in cases when Latvijas Radio works with losses because of the board,» the letter mentions.

Authors of the letter also note that members of the board have demonstrated behaviour aimed at controlling the work of journalists and settling scored with the head of the News Service.

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