Decisions to support privately-owned businesses through taxpayers' money must be "carefully evaluated", Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Monday, commenting on calls to give the media free access to information from the Center of Registers.
Saulius Skvernelis
© DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

"I understand why my statement that the media are also businesses that bring profits to their owners has caused such a reaction. Nevertheless, I can publicly repeat every word I said at the government meeting. It is always necessary to carefully evaluate decisions to use taxpayers' money to support privately-owned companies, including the media," he said on his Facebook page.

The Cabinet discussed reopening free access to registry data for the media at that meeting, but put off its decision on the matter. Journalists demanded that the video recording of the meeting be made public, but it turned that the government office had destroyed it.

On Sep. 14, the Center of Registers ended its long-time practice of providing registry data free of charge based on journalists' inquiries. The journalist community then accused the authorities of restricting the media's freedom to receive information from the state.

In his Facebook post, the prime minister underlines that a decision on free access to information for the media has already been adopted, but adds that "the government is drafting decisions that very influential groups managing large amounts of money allocated to the media may not like."

According to Skvernelis, "perhaps we should also talk about tens of millions of euros that the media receive from state institutions each year".

"Perhaps it would be more reasonable to use the money for other purposes, such as supporting the poorest families, whose tragedies often make media headlines," he said.

Commenting on the destroyed recording of the meeting, Skvernelis said "the right of participants of all non-public government meetings to speak non-publicly will continue to be respected".

"Audio recordings are handled by the government office according to the law and established practice. If someone thinks that this is against the law, there is a legal way to resolve such disputes," he added.

Opposition lawmakers have asked the prime minister to give explanations regarding the destroyed recording to the parliament on Tuesday.

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