In a statement, it says that the law has been submitted, at short notice, for a debate on January 11 by the Seimas (parliament) ruling majority.
It adds that Monika Garbaciauskaite-Budriene, the DG of LRT, has expressed LRT’s concern about “the significant pressure from the ruling party of Lithuania, which aims to make substantial changes to the Law on LRT…and may have a direct impact on LRT’s independence and at the same time pose serious threats for freedom of speech and democracy on the whole”.
The EBU says that the proposed changes to the Law are based on the findings of the Ad Hoc Investigative Commission of the Seimas. The creation of this Investigative Commission has been challenged before the Constitutional Court and the conclusions of the Investigative Commission have been previously voted down in plenary.
In this situation, the EBU believes it would be better to wait for the judgment of the Constitutional Court or to launch the reform process on a different basis.
EBU DG Noel Curran said: “The Law on LRT regulates the activities of a significant institution in a democratic society and needs to guarantee the institutional autonomy and editorial independence of Lithuania’s public service media”.
In 2018, the EBU advised that the draft proposal should ensure sufficient safeguards against political influence in the establishment of the new Board which, according to the new draft Law, takes away significant competence from the Council.
The new draft law also introduces an Ombudsman whose duties and responsibilities must be well defined in order to ensure an efficient self-regulatory mechanism that enhances transparency and provides advice to those in charge of management and supervision.
The EBU says it has sent preliminary comments to the Parliament and stands ready to provide legal comments to the draft Law if requested.
It now urges the Lithuanian authorities to take the appropriate measures that guarantee the institutional autonomy and editorial independence of LRT and encourages the Lithuanian authorities to engage in a broad debate on the draft law and invite international media law experts to express their opinion in order to ensure that the law observes best practice and European standards.