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For academic freedom to Latvia

On the 14th of February, 2013, The Saeima of the Republic of Latvia passed an amendment to the “Law on Scientific Activity,” making legal the tight control of scientific activity by special intelligence agencies. Those who voted in favor of the amendment were delegates of the incoming ruling coalition party (“Unity,” Reform party, VL-TB/DNNL).

According to the introduced amendment of the “Law on Scientific Activity,” science in Latvia henceforth is not only of particular importance with regard to social development, but also to national security (Article 2-1).

In the new version of the law, this means that the responsibility of the Latvian scientist is “to discontinue scientific research if it, per the determination of state security agencies, may lead to a threat of national security” (Article 6, paragraph 5). Note that under this provision, the determination of danger from scientific research would be made not by the academic or scientific community, but by the intelligence agencies. New responsibilities emerge for the directors of scientific establishments – who, from now on, must comply with inquiries from agencies to inform them “of research projects both ongoing and those declared for financing, as well as the participation of foreign researchers directed by the institute of research projects and the participation of scientists in ongoing research projects in foreign countries.”

Intelligence agencies are also granted the ability to take part in the work of the Scientific Council of Latvia, and with that, the decision-making process with regard to issues “that involve national security and the protection of state secrets” must also take into account the determinations of intelligence agencies (Article 15, paragraph 4-5). Scientific establishments may be stripped of their scientific statuses and excluded from the state Register of Scientific Institutions if an agency determines that it “provides information about the establishment's scientific activity, which leads to a threat of national security” (Article 32, paragraph 1-31). The exclusion from the Register of Scientific Institutions means the stripping of rights to receive government subsidies, to participate in local and international competitions that provide subsidies from local budgets, and to teach or take part in the growth of academic proficiency.

In accordance with the amendment to the “Law on Scientific Activity,” the intelligence agencies of Latvia have the right to directly interfere with scientific activity. This includes the ability to influence decision making with regard to the construction of scientific developments, to cease academic research and to close institutions under the pretext of “threats to national security.”

The rights granted to the intelligence agencies directly violate the fundamental principles of academic freedom, including the right for teachers and academic collaborators to develop their area of expertise and to express their views without fear of oppression or dismissal. Because of the amendment to the “Law on Scientific Activity,” Latvian agencies are able to carry out an extra-judicial persecution of “undesirables” in academic and scientific institutions.

There is no doubt that the first to feel the pressure of these agencies will be those working in the social sciences. The acting leadership of Latvian intelligence agencies do not conceal the fact that they look upon the social sciences (above all – history) as a factor in “national security.” In an August 2010 interview given to the Latvian newspaper “Latvijas avize,” the director of the Constitution Protection Bureau, Janis Kazocins, stated that activities engaged in supporting the research of Latvian History by Russian non-governmental foundation “Historical Memory” is under the scope of his “official interests.” In March of 2012, the director of the “Historical Memory” foundation Aleksandr Dyukov and the leader of the foundation's research programs Vladimir Simindei were to present an exhibition entitled “Stolen Childhood: The Juvenile Victims of Nazi Punitive Measures in Northwest USSR” in Riga. In an attempt to disrupt the exhibition, the two were groundlessly listed as personae non gratae in Latvia and the Schengen area as persons posing an alleged threat to the Republic's “national security.”

Had previous Latvian intelligence agencies turned their attention to the prevention of “subversive” activities of scientists abroad, then it would be private Latvian scientific institutions and all social scientists under attack per the amended “Law on Scientific Activity” – for expressing ideas that do not coincide with official governmental ideologies.

We believe that the interference of intelligence agencies in scientific activity are unacceptable in a modern, democratic, legal state of the European Union. We urge the international scientific community and all who understand the importance of academic freedom to give a principled assessment of the actions taken by Latvian authorities to destroy the freedom of scientific research, and to appeal to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the governments of the European Union with a call to assist in the abolition of the amendment to the “Law on Scientific Activity” in the Republic of Latvia.

Sign petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/270/860/738/for-academic-freedom-in-latvia/



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