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Latvia3 December 2001

Journalist died after being assaulted

In a letter to the Latvian minister of the interior, Mareks Seglins, on 3 December 2001, Reporters Without Borders (RSF - Reporters sans frontières) expressed its concern following the death, on 28 November, of journalist Gundars Matiss who had been in a coma since 15 November, after being assaulted.

"We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that the people behind this fatal attack are identified and judged", said Robert Ménard, RSF general secretary. "We also ask you not to exclude too quickly the possibility of an assault directly related to the journalist’s work", he added.

According to information collected by RSF, journalist Gundars Matiss, from the Liepaja daily Kurzemes Vards, died from injuries sustained when he was assaulted with a metal rod on 15 November. Since then he had been in a coma. 35-year-old Gundars Matiss was an investigative journalist, "one of the rare ones in Liepaja, who tried to study the different shades of the criminal world and to understand its essence", according to his colleagues who have not excluded the possibility of the assault being related to the journalists’ work. The police have opened an inquiry. According to the head of the Liepaja criminal investigation department, Arturs Vaiteiks, there are still no suspects. Investigators have not excluded a possible connection between the attack and the journalist’s publications. They are nevertheless concentrating on other possibilities: personal motives or foul crime, even if the assailants apparently stole nothing from the journalist. According to Askolds Rodins, one of his colleagues, "it is difficult to understand how the Liepaja police can consider a professional motive for this crime as the least likely".

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