Indrė Makaraitytė
© DELFI / Domantas Pipas

Former companion of Ramūnas Karbauskis, from whom the head of the "Farmers" bought Ūkininko Patarėjas shares, Vytenis Neverdauskas says that one of the core facets of "Farmer" plans to take power was the LRT, Indrė Makaraitytė writes on lrt.lt.

Apparently V. Neverdauskas himself proposed to R. Karbauskis, who almost believed himself that he too could participate in next year's presidential elections, to reorganise the LRT Council, the principles of its formation, review production projects and business activities.

When I told R. Karbauskis that even the Bishop's Conference has a representative in the LRT council, he was surprised, saying, "Why not pagans?" and stated that solutions will have to be sought in Seimas.

V. Neverdauskas and R. Karbauskis' paths have separated, so the former only speaks about what he himself proposed to the "Farmer" leader.

This can be viewed in various ways, but journalists are already burning candles in Kudirka Square. And will do so a number of times more. One after another, decisions arise that will make information access more difficult.

This was cunningly wrapped into colourful wrappers and the candy is luxurious: data protection, corruption prevention, implementing effective management. But when you unwrap it, you find an incredibly cynical, perhaps even uncouth, repressive view of the freedom of speech, news media and the public's right to know.

All at once: charges for Centre of Registers data, the Ministry of Justice proposes to remove information from publically accessible sources about individuals participating in elections, regulation of internet television activities.

We wait with concern, what proposals to restrict news media await in the Seimas and cabinet after the National Security and Defence Committee investigation and conclusions, while the conclusions of the Seimas commission to investigate LRT activities, which turned into specific proposals to fundamentally change the management of the LRT, will likely soon head to the Committee on Culture to become law.

Thus, let us unwrap those luxurious wrappers.

Apparently, the cabinet will allow free of charge access to Centre of Registers data for journalists, but if not for journalistic solidarity and remnants of understanding in the corridors and corners of the state of what is the freedom of speech and the public's right to know, this would not have happened. Also, perhaps a fear to completely clash with the news media prior to the elections, though it can be easily fixed by elections and state funds.

The opportunity to obtain information from the Centre of Registers for free was "shut off" with no prior warning, discussion or even reflection, why and to what extent journalists need this information. The removal of such an option was revealed to journalists when they contacted the Centre of Registers public relations department for information, as was usual.

"What, you would like to continue stealing from the state?" I was rhetorically asked by the head of the Centre of Registers and former STT head Saulius Urbanavičius, when asked, why he is using his authority without consulting and unilaterally banning free access to information, which is important to everyone. The only question I was left with was why after all these years of, according to S. Urbanavičius, corrupt Centre of Registers management, his own STT did not take interest?

No, we did not prohibit, S. Urbanavičius says, we simply cannot provide information free of charge and distributed typical contracts with fees to all news outlets.

A cunning game by the authorities.

Doubts appeared in the public sphere, why the news media, especially commercial media, need free access to Centre of Registers data. Not all of commercial news media is just leisure and contracted discussions with the majority, where the "Farmer" heads never leave the screens and smile, not facing a single more difficult question. And of course, they are always invited again. There is a different commercial news media and for all, who wish to see, it is clear, what works honestly and what – not.

However, it is unlikely that the new head of the Centre of Registers was calculating that profits of commercial news media, prior to going to meet Saulius Skvernelis to obtain permission to shut the valves on information for businesses, which have thronged the Centre of Registers on not the most transparent bases.

The prime minister is not very happy, how journalists write and portray him. He is not the first and certainly not the last.

But in this specific case, it was most likely a conjectural interest that operated, where the mentality of two individuals, who arrived from repressive institutions, matched.

When S. Urbanavičius was still the head of the STT and specifically at the same time, S. Skvernelis raised wages for law enforcement, there was extra funding earmarked for new analytical functions of anti-corruption intelligence. So how could officers perform these functions if businesses use these information sources, later reselling it to their clients? Or journalists? Also journalists because after all, based on such a mentality, such investigations must be performed by officers, who have to confirm with their superiors, what is to be publicised and what isn't and should be kept for a rainy day. Just in case.

Journalists, even the LRT, after all, they don't ask for permission, what to release first: Landsbergis' family business, Karbauskis' elevators or fertilisers or perhaps S. Skvernelis' old car?

They cannot prohibit use, but it is clear for any old fool that with charging for data, the heads of commercial news media will not dedicate further or more funds for data purchases from the Centre of Registers. Perhaps not all these investigations cost ten thousand euro, but even a few hundred euro could pose a challenge in the long run.

Cut the news media's financial independence and you will always have positive results.

Thus, it wasn't without reason that S. Skvernelis rejected Minister of Transport and Communications Rokas Masiulis' legislation on interim regulations for free of charge Centre of Registers data usage. That's how this prime minister thinks, journalists should not have free access to information sources and registers. The opinion the prime minister expressed during the meeting, over whose recording there is a whole detective show going on, is definitely his honest opinion about news media. Both the LRT and commercial media.

And thus, the cabinet clerks were told to not release it to the public at any cost.

The prime minister would rather sacrifice a companion, as responsible for this whole mess, but with the nearing presidential elections, his honesty behind closed doors could truly cost a great deal.

This is why everything is held behind closed doors, the conclusions of the Seimas commission on LRT activities were born the same way. Behind closed doors.

Not only the recommendations to change the appointment regulations for the LRT Council were born behind closed doors, but a whole new oversight organ was created – the board. If you criticise the Seimas commission's proposal to establish a management alongside the council, you risk being called a fool – after all, the management is not an organ conjured up by R. Karbauskis.

But when you unwrap one wrapper, the colourful one, you also find a white one and if you toss it in the bin alongside the coloured one, you risk not grasping the essence.

The Seimas commission proposed that the management would be elected by the council from candidates selected by the governmental selection commission. However, appointment to the council, according to the commission's proposal, should be done during every Seimas term, thus removing the non-overlapping term principle. When you have a favourable council, just look, it accidentally selects those from among the cunningly chosen candidates, who are more familiar than the rest.

You review their party affiliation or just favour to a party and things get difficult – google will no longer present information about how one or other individual once ran in the elections. This, according to the current Ministry of Justice and its appointed document security inspector, is information that should not be freely accessible. It should also be restricted.

Is this unexpected?

Not if you monitor trends and notice differences between talks and deeds.

And it is frightening because the government always has more opportunities to undercut the news media than it has opportunities to resist, especially if there are many likeminded people in power.

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