Don't mention the D word in Latvia

In Latvia, the government is warning journalists not to stir up panic about the financial crisis. Talk of currency devaluation is all but a criminal offence and could earn transgressors a spell behind bars.

Lecturer Dmitry Smirnov of the School of Economics in the city of Ventspils was detained after an interview to a local newspaper. He doubted the stability of the national currency, the lat, and urged readers to switch their reserves into dollars. He also said keeping money in banks was not safe.

Popular Latvian singer, Valters Fridenbergs – who represented the country at the Eurovision song contest in 2005 – had a brush with the law after making some ill-judged comments during a concert.  He said people could wait until the event was over before rushing to banks to withdraw their money.  He was later questioned by police.

The Latvian Government is jumpy when it comes to the economy after rumours of devaluation caused panic last year. Spreading ‘inherently false information about the national financial system’ is a criminal offence now that can end with a fine or a two-year jail sentence.

As the country faces serious problems in the global financial storm, authorities aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to jokes about money.