Numerous attempts by the ruling party against freedom of expression
In 2019, Lithuania saw a new legislation simplifying the restriction of broadcast for security reasons as well as further attempts to limit press freedom on various grounds. Thanks to the amended Law on Provision of Information to the Public, the country’s regulator Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission is now able to urgently suspend a radio or TV programme broadcast for 72 hours if it represents a threat to Lithuania’s national security and ensuring national defence. The Commission can decide without a court order and on the basis of an opinion of institutions responsible for national security. In May, the Constitutional Court briefly interrupted attempts on press freedom by the ruling party Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU). The Court ruled that the LFGU-led parliamentary investigation of the public broadcaster LRT violated freedom of speech. Yet, the party’s offensive didn’t stop there. The LFGU refused to withdraw a new law on LRT based on the parliamentary investigation’s findings The law will be put to vote in spring 2020. In the same session, the Parliament is also expected to decide on the creation of a “Media Support Fund”. Under the proposal by LFGU, the administration of public funding for cultural and educational media content would be transferred from an independent body to the Ministry of Culture. Lithuanian journalists fear this could lead to censorship on the part of the recipients. In a different procedure aimed again to boost national security, the Defence Ministry proposed, in December 2019, to limit media freedom by labeling some information “for official use”. This would effectively ban journalists’ access to information on any government decision that has not been taken yet, for example on a draft law. Following public outcry, the Ministry withdrew the amendment. Meanwhile, journalists continue to wrestle over access to public information, as state institutions refuse to grant it, although the existing regulations oblige them.
30 in 2019
22.06 in 2019