2019.04.24 16:32

Lithuanian MP moves to ban media ownership by alcohol and tobacco businesses

Jūratė Skėrytė, BNS 2019.04.24 16:32

Lithuanian member of parliament Vytautas Bakas has proposed to ban alcohol and tobacco producers from owning media outlets.

Bakas, a member of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, chairs the parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance.

He has tabled an amendment to the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public.

The amendment calls for banning individuals and organisations engaged in production or sales of alcohol or tobacco products from owning media. The ban would also apply to companies founded or owned by alcohol or tobacco producers.

Currently, state and municipal institutions and agencies, banks and political parties are barred rom media ownership.

Bakas says his amendment seeks to “better align the state's policy in the field of public information with tobacco and alcohol control policies”.

In the bill's explanatory note, Bakas claims that the interests of tobacco and alcohol producers are incompatible with the government's policies aimed at reducing the consumption of these products.

Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of Bakas' party, says he supports the amendment.

“My personal position would be to approve it, but I can't speak for our group (in the parliament),” he told BNS on Wednesday.

If passed, the amendment would have major implications for MG Baltic, one of Lithuania's largest business groups. It currently owns a package of TV channels that includes LNK, BTV, TV1, Info TV and Liuks!.

MG Baltic has been named in the State Security Department's report alleging that the company's long-term strategies to influence Lithuania's politics represents a threat to national security.

The report was submitted to Bakas' Budget and Finance Committee last year. The MP then suggested that MG Baltic's media outlets could have their licenses revoked.

The idea then drew criticism from both President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis.