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Latvia’s biggest daily bleeds money in 2012

By Anatol Steven. 06.05.2013

Latvia sleeping
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Politics appears to keep dominating Diena’s editorial policy

The publisher of Latvia's biggest daily operated at a loss in 2012, just as it did the previous year, it is being reported. Although AS Diena has not yet stated the exact sum of the loss, it exceeded the LVL 1.45 million (€2 million) it lost in 2011.

Diena has struggled to maintain its reputation and visibility in recent years. Once the most liberal newspaper in the country and a voice of sanity in a corrupt environment, it lost a great deal of credibility when some of its most influential voices departed in 2010 to set up the biting current affairs magazine “Ir” (www.ir.lv).

It is also trying to survive in a fast-changing world of how news is read, as an increasing range of online news outlets become available.

The newspaper has been losing money for years, the publication news2biz LATVIA writes. To cut these losses its previous owner, Swedish media group Bonnier, sold it in 2009. Now, in an effort to get back on track, Diena has apparently adopted a “new value system” and strict austerity measures.

This system includes lifting, at least partly, the shroud of secrecy that has existed over its ownership since 2009. The secrecy was one of the reasons its best journalists left shortly afterwards.

The paper’s official owner is Riga Commercial Port (Rigas tirdzniecibas osta), a company closely linked to local oligarchs Ainārs Šlesers and Andris Šķēle. These business-heavy former politicians' joint aim all along has allegedly been to silence the paper’s liberal voice, and in this they seem to have succeeded. Diena’s distinctive editorial has markedly been disfigured.

Now, however, in an effort to fight the ongoing losses, a new editorial policy has been introduced. 

“Even though Diena was the strongest and best established liberal newspaper brand on the Latvian market, it has now decided to reinvent itself as a ‘modern conservative newspaper with liberal leanings but conservative values’,” news2biz LATVIA writes.

“With this, Diena joins a rather crowded niche, as the two remaining Latvian national dailies – Neatkariga rita avize and Latvijas avize – follow very similar guidelines,” news2biz continues. “The new values sound suspiciously familiar to the official party line often touted by Šlesers and Šķēle. For example, even though the new Diena supports Latvia’s participation in European and trans-Atlantic organization [sic], it focuses its editorial policies on ‘building pragmatic relationships with Latvia’s largest neighboring country Russia’.”

[photo by Valts Klein; courtesy Latvia Tourism / TAVA]




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