A series of law amendments could put the independence of Lithuania’s public service broadcaster at risk.

Established in 1945, the Public Media Alliance [PMA] is the largest, global association of public media organisations. PMA recognises the pivotal role that public media plays in democratic societies by providing advocacy and support for public media organisations worldwide.

PMA wishes to express its serious concerns regarding current proposals to change the existing law on Lithuanian public broadcaster, LRT, following a vote on 11th January 2019 in the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) to accept a new draft Law on LRT for debate.

Effective public broadcasting/media underpins informed democracies and provides an essential platform for public discourse and debate.

To be effective, national public broadcasters need to be transparent and accountable but they also need to be independent of government.

As PMA is witnessing, there is an growing global tendency for public broadcasters to be ‘captured’ by the state. This is demonstrated by increasing state control, pressure and input into the way that public media organisations are governed and operated.

The new draft legislation in Lithuania proposes significant changes to the governance mechanisms of LRT, including the appointment of a new ‘Board’ and Ombudsman. If such changes are to be implemented for the benefit of the organisation’s transparency and efficiency, there needs to be a full guarantee that they will be applied respecting the autonomy and independence of the public broadcaster and any such changes should involve discussions and input from LRT as key stakeholders in the process. The PMA urges those who will be debating the future of this new draft law to fully consider the implications of their actions in terms of protecting the freedom and independence of LRT. Creating additional layers of supervisory bodies tends to lead to overlap and tensions and rarely to guaranteeing the editorial independence of public service media.

In recent years, LRT has been recognised for embracing and championing press freedom. It is therefore important, in accordance with the principle of freedom of expression enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights, to ensure the public service broadcaster’s continued independence. Guarantees of independence are especially important in what will be a significant election year in Lithuania.

PMA will continue to monitor and report on developments regarding LRT and will be writing to the Prime Minister of Lithuania to note its concerns, which can be read below.

PMA’s letter to Lithuania’s Prime Minister and Members of Parliament
Letter LRT
Page 1: Letter to the Prime Minister of Lithuania concerning the independence of LRT.
Page 2: Letter to the Prime Minister of Lithuania concerning the independence of LRT.

Image credits: Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT)