bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Wednesday 26.09.2018 | Name days: Kurts, Knuts, Gundars
LithuaniaLithuania

Lithuanian Government mulls mandatory assets and interest declarations from journalists

FaceBook
Twitter
Draugiem
print
(No Ratings Yet)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The Lithuanian Government readies to toughen the life of journalists with a legislative initiative to introduce asset, income and interest declaration for all journalists.

The proposal was submitted to the Cabinet on Wednesday, following the conclusions of a parliamentary probe into businesses’ unlawful influence on politics. Seimas‘ National Security and Defence Committee commenced it after the revelation that MG Baltic, an influential business group and owner of several major media outlets, has influenced the legislative and prosecutor-appointing process.

Several media people approached by BNN ridiculed the proposals and claimed they reflect the Farmers and Greens-led Government’s increasing resolve to interfere and control media.

«Instead of helping print media, which is affected by the trends most, authorities want to crush it. Our editorial office has been downsized from 25 journalists during our peak years in the early 1990s to a mere four journalists now. Note, their salaries are just a little higher than the minimum wage in the country. What assets can they declare if they live on the brink of poverty?» Gintaras Tomkus, editor-in-chief of Vakaru Ekspresas, a daily published in Klaipeda in western Lithuania, wondered to BNN.

Although the local wire news said in the beginning that all journalists will be liable to submit their asset, income and interest declarations with the enactment of the proposal, Skirmantas Malinauskas, advisor to Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, backtracked from the position when speaking to BNS Lithuania and insisted there are plans to make journalists submit asset and income declarations to the State Tax Inspectorate.

«What we propose is that media outlets themselves would be allowed to set their own procedures for declaring interests, but the law would stipulate the principle that journalists should submit their declarations to the editor-in-chief or director,» the adviser said.

However, Saulius Skvernelis, was claiming differently.

«We want to protect journalists from accusations and speculative information. Therefore, the need that assets and income were declared not only by media company shareholders, directors of such companies, but also by all journalists, too,» PM accentuated.

He, nevertheless, supports the idea that journalists ought to inform about a possible conflict of interests to their direct supervisors first of all.

«That way we would create a self-regulation mechanism, when the journalist will be obliged to tell the editor-in-chief that, because of conflict of interests, he or she cannot write a certain story and et cetera,» Skvernelis said.

PM also wants media organizations to mark advertisement accordingly if they are related to their owners’ business or businesses.

«We also want media organizations belonging to business groups be known as such to the public. If there is a TV reportage, for example, the broadcaster ought to mark that the coverage is related to some business, be it construction, tobacco or any other (business),» Skvernelis reasoned.

There’s also a proposal for the government to initiate amendments to the Law on Advertising to bar unmarked advertising on social media.

«In all cases of paid advertising, both the natural and the legal person should have the obligation to mark that. Both the contractor and the person spreading information would be held accountable if advertising is not marked,» Malinauskas said.

The Lithuanian government will also deliberate a proposal to ban politicians from holding ownership in media outlets. Such politicians would include party members, non-affiliated MPs, members of the government and municipal councils as well as state officials of political trust.

Media people approached by BNN criticised the initiatives, calling them «redundant», „«unreasonable» and «flawed».

«Our media, especially its print segment, has been so cornered up in terms of the financial situation that the salaries of journalists, if made public, will look ridiculous to all» Gintaras Tomkus, editor-in-chief of Vakaru Ekspresas, a daily published in Klaipeda, Lithuania‘s third-largest city, told BNN.

«I personally know many local publishers and editors-in-chief who thrived, say, 20 years ago and acted as businessmen. Now, with the news trends affecting the print media badly, they have downsized their editorial offices beyond recognition and work as journalists themselves. This is my case, too, by the way. In the peak time of the newspaper, I employed 25 journalists and have just 4 of them left now,» Tomkus accentuated.

«I write articles myself, I take photos myself and even distribute the newspaper myself. This is what I did when we just established the newspaper during the years of Sąjūdis (Lithuania‘s national movement for freedom) in the early 1990s. Thanks to the state, print media is going extinct now».

Dainius Radzevičius, chairman of Lithuania‘s Journalists Union, told BNN he was «dismayed» by the proposal to make journalists declare their assets and interests.

«If we want more transparency in the state, then such declarations should be mandatory to everybody. I mean to representatives of all professions, i.e. lawyers, teachers, doctors and so on. It does not make sense to single out one category of people Radzevičius underscored. «Journalists are neither politics nor public servants».

According to him, the state had to bar politicians from owning media outlets «long time ago».

«This is what we are asking for years now,» he said. «Politicians should be conscientious and should not even think of owning a newspaper in order to influence the public opinion and so on. When media and politics merge we have an oligarchy, be it the example of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy or the examples in Ukraine and Russia,» he added.

However, Vytautas Bruveris, a journalist of daily Lietuvos Rytas, reasoned to BNN that the initiative regarding journalists’ mandatory asset and interest declarations is «good» as it aims to bring more transparency in media operations.

He, nevertheless, emphasised that the initiative was driven not by the will to make media more transparent, but by the ruling party’s striving to control media.

«For the ruling Farmers and Greens, media is one of its biggest foes. The situation of our media is not so far as bad as that in neighbouring Poland or, say, in Hungary and, of course, Russia. However, it is deteriorating,» he said.

According to him, the recent parliamentary probe in the national broadcaster’s activities showed just that.

«The focus was on how some of the TV hosts have become rich and how they exercise their influence. The investigation however bypassed other, more acute issues,» Bruveris noted.

The proposals concerning media will be submitted for the Lithuanian legislators in the autumn session. It starts on 10 September.


Leave a reply

Latvian government to expand Money Laundering Prevention Service’s capacity

On Tuesday, 25 September, Latvian government reached an agreement on the need to reorganize the supervision Cabinet of Ministers has over Money Laundering Prevention Service. At the same time, members of the government also agreed to expand the service’s capacity, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola told journalists.

New natural gas tariffs approved in Latvia; those who use more gas will pay less

The Public Utilities Commission has approved AS Gaso’s submitted natural gas transmission system’s tariff project, which provides for the introduction of a fixed fee for connection to permitted load regardless of the consumed gas volume.

OCMA: majority of Latvian immigrants live in Britain, Ireland and Germany

The Office for Citizenship and Migration Affairs has calculated the exact number of Latvian citizens living abroad. The majority of Latvians reside in Britain, followed by Ireland, Germany , and USA, according to the data compiled in July 2018.

Sweden's head of government Löfven loses no-confidence vote

The head of Swedish government, Stefan Löfven has not received the support of parliamentary majority despite his left-wing block narrowly winning the parliamentary election earlier in the month.

CC: number of business merges on a rise in Latvia

In the first eight months of 2018, Competition Council made twelve decisions regarding business merges, which is 50% more than the number of similar decisions made in the same period of last year. Consolidation of market participants takes place the most often in retail trade of household goods, BNN was informed by the council.

EU supervisor to investigate Estonian and Danish banking authorities on Danske Bank

The banking supervisory authority of the European Union has been asked to investigate the work of Denmark and Estonia’s national banking watchdogs over possible shortcomings in failing to prevent money laundering through the Estonia branch of Danske Bank.

airBaltic receives its 12th Airbus A220-300 aircraft

Latvian airBaltic airline has received its twelfth Airbus A220-300 aircraft with registration number YL-CSN. The airline plans to have a total of fourteen Airbus A220-300 aircraft by the end of 2018.

In pictures: Pope Francis arrives in Tallinn

The head of the Roman Catholic church has been welcomed in Tallinn as he begins the last leg of the papal visit to the Baltic states devoted to their centenary.

Meteorologists say first autumn storm in Latvia to take place this week

On Tuesday, 25 September, atmospheric pressure in Latvia will increase and clouds will tend to reduce in the afternoon, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Germany's largest bank required to improve fight against money laundering

The financial watchdog of Germany has called on Deutsche Bank to improve its measures against legalisation of dirty money.

Nearly 20,000 Latvians were living in Ireland in spring 2016

19,933 Latvian citizens were living in Ireland in spring 2016, according to census data from Ireland’s Central Statistical Bureau on the number of foreigners living in the country.

Russian protest leader Navalny detained right after previous detention

Alexei Navalny, a supporter of current protests in Russia against pension reform, has been released from administrative arrest, but arrested again on the same day to be kept in administrative arrest for another 20 days on charges of holding an illegal protest.

CPB: Russian special services remain highly interested about Latvia

Russian special services remain highly interested about Latvia’s internal politics. This includes 13th Saeima elections and their possible results. However, there is currently no information to suggest the election process could be influenced from the outside, admits Constitution Protection Bureau.

PHOTO: Pope Francis visits Riga Cathedral and meets seniors at St Jacob’s Cathedral

Pope Francis visited both Riga Castle and Riga Cathedral, where a service was held under his supervision. There he met with different Latvian officials. After that, the pope met with senior citizens at St Jacob’s cathedral.

Pope Francis arrives in Latvia for an official visit

Pope Francis arrived in Latvia on Monday, 24 September. He was greeted at the airport by President Raimonds Vējonis, Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs and other public figures.

Week in Lithuania. President proposes amendments to restrict bailiffs' remuneration

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is putting forward amendments aimed at restricting bailiffs' financial remuneration to up to 15 per cent of the amount recovered.

BNN summary of the week: pre-election heat, rule of law in Latvia, Baltics prepare for Pope’s visit

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Elections; Change; Stagnation; Fight; Visit; Investigation.

Court reschedules viewing of criminal case due to Non-citizens Congress leader’s poor health

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court announced today that the viewing of the criminal case in which leader of Non-citizens Congress Aleksandrs Gapoņenko is accused of inciting national hate will be postponed to a later date.

Producer prices in industry up 1.0% in Latvia in August

Compared to July, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 1.0 % in August 2018. Level of prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.9 %, but of exported products – went up by 0.1 %.

Bishop: priest suspected of sexual abuse to be operated on in hospital

Pāvels Zeiļa, who is a priest of Rezekne Aglona diocese and the suspect in the criminal case regarding sexual violence and human trafficking, will undergo a complicated surgery on Friday, 21 September, as reported by Bishop Jānis Bulis.

Study: residents withdraw money from ATMs less often but in larger amounts

Every now and then discussions about dropping cash money altogether become active in society, AS PrivatBank representatives say.

HND Grupa design company, involved in Zolitude tragery, declared insolvent

Building engineer Ivars Sergets company HND Grupa, which was involved in the case revolving around the Maxima supermarket that collapsed in Zolitude, killing 54, not five years ago, has been declared insolvent, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Deputy Chief of State Fire and Rescue Service suspected of misappropriation

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry’s Internal Security Bureau has detained deputy chief of State Fire and Rescue Service Ints Sēlis and one other official – a senior inspector, as reported by Panorāma programme of LTV.

Washington sanctions China for buying Russian military equipment

U.S. government has introduces sanctions against the Chinese army over a purchase of fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, despite a U.S. sanctions law targeting Moscow for attempts to sway in the 2016 U.S. election.

Autumn expected to begin soon in Latvia

Friday, 21 September, is expected to be warm in Latvia. Sun and considerable amount of clouds are expected, but not precipitation. Wind will draw in from the south, reaching a speed of 15-17 m/sec in western and central regions, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.