Seimas Ombudsman calls Parliament to avoid initiatives limiting independence of national broadcaster
The Seimas Ombudsman has called the Parliament to avoid any initiatives limiting the independence of the national broadcaster. The Seimas Ombudsman, Augustinas Normantas, has urged the Parliament to avoid the initiatives that would have a political and/or economic influence on the public broadcaster, thus violating the provisions of Article 10 of the ECtHR. Without assessing the specific proposals of the Seimas temporary investigation commission, formulated in Project No. XIIIP-2656, the Seimas Ombudsmen’s Office as a national human rights institution advocates the protection of the independence of the national broadcaster.
"The right to information is a fundamental value of democracy that needs to be safeguarded. Various news in the media have a direct and indirect impact on the democratic processes of the society", the statement reads.
The Seimas Ombudsman pointed out that the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania has emphasized that the Constitution guarantees and protects the public interest to be informed, that the constitutional freedom to unhindered search, receipt and dissemination of information and ideas is one of the foundations of an open, fair, sustainable civil society, a democratic state, it is an important pre-condition for the realization of various individual rights and freedoms established by the Constitution.
Moreover, the Seimas Ombudsman has observed that Article 10 of the ECtHR, which ensures freedom of expression, includes, among other things, freedom of the press, radio and television, since there is no democratic society without a free and abundant press. This includes the freedom to transmit and receive information through broadcasting and other electronic media, and therefore any state interference with the activities of a public service broadcaster must comply with the requirements of Article 10 (2) of the ECtHR.
"The ECHR in its statement on the independence of the public broadcaster, on the grounds of the resolution of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, No. 1 "The Future of Public Service Broadcasting", stated that states committed to ensuring the independence of all broadcasters from political and economic interference", stressed Normantas.
On 26 October 2018, the Seimas Ombudsmen's Office received a letter by a group of members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania requesting to evaluate whether the draft resolution No. XIIIP-2656 of the Seimas 'Concerning the conclusion to the parliamentary investigation concerning the investigation of the Lithuanian National Radio And Television management, financial and economic activities conducted by the temporary investigation commission of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania', which intends to modify the management structure of the Lithuanian National Radio And Television, does not potentially limit the independence of the Lithuanian National Radio And Television, is not in conflict with the international obligations of the Republic of Lithuanian in the field of human rights.