Latvia's rating downgraded to Narrowed

The CIVICUS Monitor has today downgraded Latvia's civic space rating from Open to Narrowed. This change follows close consultation with our research partner in the region, the European Civic Forum, and contacts with local civil society organisations, and is based on our analysis of a decline in respect for fundamental freedoms in the country. 

Concerning developments in recent months include amendments to the laws governing CSOs adopted by the Latvian parliament in November 2017. These changes aim to ensure that CSOs comply with "national security interests" and they also give greater powers to the authorities to ask for detailed reports, prohibit public activities and freeze bank accounts of organisations. Authorities now have the power to shut down organisations in certain circumstances. This closure of space is also being experienced through a denial of access to government ministries and attempts by the government to curtail funding to the sector. These developments have occurred in tandem with a spike in damaging public narratives about so-called 'Sorosites' - members of civil society which are allegedly funded by Hungarian philanthropist George Soros and are intent on importing foreign values and destablising the state.

Recent attempts by CSOs in Latvia to reopen dialogue with the government on these issues has proved unfruitful, with the influence of the National Alliance (NA) party, a right wing party which is currently in a coalition government with two other parties. Local CSOs have reported to CIVICUS that they are witnessing moves similar to those taken by Euopean governments to restrict freedoms, although the Latvian governments' attempts in this regard are more subtle.

For more on these developments, and to read our latest updates on Latvia, please see here.