“The amendments were initially aimed at preventing municipalities from misusing newspaper publishing under the cover of municipal educational establishments. By closing this legal loophole, the Seimas has created even better conditions to politicize the media,” the Office of the President said in a statement.
In June, the Seimas replaced the provision of the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public, stating that “state and municipal institutions and agencies (except for scientific and educational establishments), banks, political parties may not be the producers of public information and/or their participants”.
The new provision says that “banks and legal persons under their control, state and municipal institutions and agencies as well legal persons with the state or a municipality as their founder, participant or shareholder cannot be the producers of public information and/or their participants”.
The bill was supported by all Seimas political groups, except for some members of the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania and the Electoral Action of Poles, who abstained.
“The removal of the provision banning political parties from being the producers and controllers of public information subsequently removed the safeguard that has been in place for almost 20 years, restricting possibilities for political parties to control the media,” the Office of the President said.
Now in Lithuania, political parties can publish non-periodical informational publications and have their websites to inform the public about their activities.
If the amendments came into force, “political parties would be given the possibility to acquire and control popular TV channels, radio stations, major news websites, most-read newspapers, magazines and disseminate not objective information but information that is convenient for the parties,” the president’s office said.
The president considers that to be a threat not only to the provision of information to the public but also to media freedom and democracy.
Grybauskaitė suggests reintroducing the ban for political parties to control media outlets.