Lithuanian ruling MPs initiate parliamentary probe into public broadcaster LRT

LRT headquarters in Vilnius

Lawmakers of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) are initiating a parliamentary investigation into the management and financial and economic activities of the public broadcaster Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT), Arvydas Nekrošius, vice-speaker of the Seimas, has confirmed to BNS.

According to Nekrošius, 39 signatures, mostly from LFGU lawmakers and those from the Order and Justice and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA), were collected on Monday for setting up a special investigation commission.

Žygintas Pečiulis, chairman of the LRT Council, says that, on one hand, he welcomes the initiative, but adds that, on the other hand, it is obviously a political move.

"We have received a lot of information from LRT and we are now systematizing it. It appears, at least at the first sight, that a deeper analysis and perhaps a commission will be needed," he told BNS.

The commission would be tasked with looking at whether LRT's management structure, functions and the division of competences are in line with European practices, ensure the transparency of LRT's activities and enable it to perform its mission as a public broadcaster,

The commission would also look at LRT's procurement procedures and contracts.

The draft resolution sets June 1 as a deadline for completing the proposed parliamentary investigation.

The chairman of the LRT Council says that a positive aspect to the initiative is that "the Seimas is at last taking the legal path instead of asking questions and making us break laws".

"On the other hand, it is obviously a political move. (The investigation is being initiated by) the ruling majority that has been heavily criticized by the media, including LRT," he told BNS.

Opposition lawmakers are sceptical of the LFGU's initiative, saying that LRT should be audited by the National Audit Office, rather than by the Seimas.

Parliamentarians began to raise questions about the transparency of LRT operations when they started analysing the public broadcaster's annual report.

The LRT Council in November received a set of questions regarding salaries, public procurement processes and relations with production companies from 66 members of the 141-seat Seimas, followed by a set of additional questions from 80 lawmakers in December.

LRT last week provided additional answers to lawmakers' questions about the broadcaster's contracts with production companies and salaries, but said that it could not give some of the requested information due to confidentiality reasons.

Lawmakers say that they are solely interested in the financial and administrative situation at LRT and the transparency of the state-funded public broadcaster's operations. Critics, however, describe the questions as pressure on LRT.

Source: BNS
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