We are providing pro bono legal assistance in a criminal case to Inga Spriņģe, a journalist who has been the victim of prolonged and repeated harassment by Jānis Sondars, including intimidation, threats and unwanted communication.
By a judgment of the court of first instance, Jānis Sondars was found guilty of harassment and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment.
Duty to prevent threats
Cases of threatening and aggressive treatment of journalists by individuals are becoming more common. It is not acceptable for such actions to be permitted in a democratic society. For this reason, discussions on the effective protection of journalists from such actions have taken place in Latvia since 2019.
In order to achieve protection of the rights of media representatives through the effective action of law enforcement authorities, we drew attention to the necessity for both the State Police and the Prosecutor General’s Office to protect journalists. Following the refusal of the State Police to reopen criminal proceedings, the Prosecutor’s Office reopened the investigation into the case of harassment of the journalist, and the case went to the court, which found the accused guilty.
Findings of the court
The court concluded that the victim had an objective basis for perceiving the threats and actions expressed by the accused as endangering her safety, as the accused repeatedly and indirectly threatened to harm her, sent threatening text messages and messages on social networks, and called and maintained unwanted communication with the victim.
The court found that the accused person’s actions grossly disregarded and violated the generally accepted moral norms of society regarding dignified communication between strangers, including on matters on which there are differences of opinion.
The accused has appealed against the court’s decision, and consequently it has not yet entered into force and the case will be heard in the appellate court.
Andris Tauriņš, a partner, provided legal assistance to the victim during the criminal proceedings. Dr.iur. Violeta Zeppa-Priedīte, a counsel, Katrīna Salmgrieze, a senior associate, and Krista Niklase, an associate, also made valuable contributions.