A judgement of the Administrative Regional Court by which the Court rejected the application of an association of political parties seeking to deem the rules set by Latvian Television (public broadcaster) on the allocation of airtime leading up to the election of the 13th Saeima unlawful, has entered into force. The association of political parties claimed that it was unduly denied participation in the final debates of Prime Minister candidates.
The court recognized the editorial independence of Latvian Television as a media outlet, which includes the freedom to determine the organisational rules of pre-election broadcasts and allocate time between politicians as it sees fit, as long as said organisational rules are equitable and each political party is provided the statutory guarantee to appear at least once on a pre-election broadcast that is a part of a public service remit. The organisational rules of pre-election broadcasts must be fair and equitable, and should be made known to the public in a timely manner. Latvian Television had fully complied with all of the requirements above. The Court did not find a misuse of editorial discretion by Latvian Television.
Article 100 of the Constitution provides for the right to freedom of speech, including, inter alia, the constitutional right of Latvian Television to freedom to select the content it broadcasts, that is, to editorial freedom. In case of doubt regarding the scope of this provision, it shall be interpreted as close as possible to the interpretation used when applying international human rights in practice.
The case law of the European Court of Human Rights, for its part, recognizes that paragraph 3 of Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights enshrines the principle of equality for all citizens to exercise their electoral rights, but does not provide for the right of a political party to demand airtime on the radio or television in the pre-election period, unless special circumstances exist. That is, if the party has been denied airtime completely.