10 February, 2021
On February 9, the Department of Civil Cases of the Senate annulled the judgment of Riga Regional Court of December 23, 2019, which partially satisfied the claim of the plaintiff VSIA Latvian National Opera and Ballet against SIA TV NET regarding the opinion piece published by TV NET on renting out opera premises for a private event of a Russian artist on July 29, 2014. The Senate remitted the case to Riga Regional Court.
The Senate acknowledged that although the Regional Court in its judgment has referred to both Section 23521 of the Civil Law and Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the interpretation and application criteria of which in context with case-law findings of the European Court of Human Rights are widely set out in the Senate judgment of July 10, 2019, however, when re-examining the case, the Regional Court has analyzed and taken into account the said findings only in part, as evidenced by the contradictory and unmotivated conclusions drawn in the judgment.
The Senate points out that in assessing whether the limits of permissible criticism have been violated, the court had to find out the purpose for which certain words or phrases in the article have been used, which the court has not accomplished. The judgment does not pay attention to the genre of the disputed publication and the means of artistic expression used in the article (hyperboles, metaphors, etc.), expressing strong condemnation and criticism of the lease of a symbol of Latvian art and culture – the Great Hall of the Opera House – for payment to a citizen of the Russian Federation for a private event, namely a birthday party which took place in the specific factual circumstances.
On November 7, 2014, VSIA Latvian National Opera and Ballet (before the change of the name - Latvian National Opera) and three board members filed a claim in Riga City Vidzeme District Court against SIA "TV NET" for apology and recovery of non-material damage for insult of honour and dignity. The plaintiffs requested the court to impose an obligation on SIA TV NET to publish an apology for insulting the honour and dignity of VSIA Latvian National Opera and its three board members in the section Opinions/Commentaries of the Internet portal www.tvnet.lv, to recover material compensation for insulting the honour and dignity of 129,873 euros to VSIA Latvian National Opera and 1 euro to each plaintiff, as well as to recover legal costs and expenses related to the conduct of the case – for the payment of an advocate's assistance.
Case No SKC-68/2021 (C30292615)
Information prepared by Baiba Kataja, the Press Secretary of the Supreme Court
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