A court in Lithuania has ruled that a newspaper breached GDPR rules by including names of people allegedly involved in corruption, setting a dangerous precedent for investigative journalism.
LRT English is publishing the statement, in full, which has been signed by the country’s media representatives.
“We, Lithuanian journalists and media representatives do not approve that, under the guise of national or international law, some public authorities, including administrative courts, could substantially limit the definition of a public person and thus deprive society of its right to information. We stand in solidarity with the Editorial Board of Atvira Klaipėda, whose aspiration to defend the right to information must be taken to the Constitutional Court or even international legal authorities. Our community fully supports these initiatives.
On October 6, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania rejected the Klaipėda news website’s complaint, regarding the decision by the Office of the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics.
The Office ruled that Atvira Klaipėda, which reported about public procurements of the public company Gatvių Apšvietimas (Street Lighting), managed by Klaipėda City Municipality, as well as involved persons, violated the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Public authorities are increasingly using GDPR as a pretext to limit access to information.
In our opinion, this and subsequent decisions by administrative courts fundamentally alter the practice of democracy, the public right to information, and journalists’ right to accurately inform the Lithuanian society.
We are convinced that the extremely diligent and excessive protection of the privacy of public individuals must not deprive the public of its right to information about the non-transparent activities of public authorities and their associates, possible corruption, and nepotism.
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania has repeatedly emphasised the fundamental role of the constitutional freedom of information, including the right of the media to seek, receive, and disseminate information and ideas without hindrance, ensuring and developing the ideal of an open, just, and harmonious civil society. It is a necessary precondition for building and maintaining democracy.
We are convinced that the administrative courts’ novel practices contradict these values outlined by the Constitutional Court and prevent the media from contributing to the maintenance and preservation of the democratic order. The decisions by the Inspector of Journalistic Ethics and some courts form a dangerous precedent, denying the previously established principles of the public’s right to information and freedom of speech.
Ineta Stravinskaitė, Chairwoman of the National Press Association
Arnas Marcinkus, Chairman of the Internet Media Association
Dainius Radzevičius, Chairman of the Lithuanian Union of Journalists
Vilija Butkuvienė, Chairwoman of the Board of the National Association of District and City Newspapers
Liudas Ramanauskas, Director of the Lithuanian Association of Regional Radio Stations
Monika Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė, Head of the Lithuanian National Radio and Television (LRT)
On behaft of BNS news agency, Deputy Director Saulius Jakučionis
Eleonora Budzinauskienė, Editor in Chief of ELTA news agency
Rolandas Barysas, Editor in Chief of Verslo Žinios
On behalf of Delfi.lt, Deputy Editor in Chief Kęstutis Cemnolonskis
On behalf of 15min.lt, Editor in Chief Vaidotas Beniušis
On behalf of TV3, Head of News Sigitas Babilius
Rolandas Agintas, Head of LNK and INFO TV news programmes
Gabija Milašiūtė, Head of Laisvės TV
Rasa Karmazaitė, Chairman of the Board of UAB Lietuvos Rytas Group
Tautvydas Mikalajūnas, Editor in Chief of Lrytas.lt
Audrius Siaurusevičius, Managing Director of Lietuvos Rytas TV
Ovidijus Lukošius, Editor in Chief of IQ magazine and Alfa.lt news website
Šarūnas Černiauskas, Head of the Siena Center for Investigative Journalism
Tadas Širvinskas, Director of UAB Diena Media News
Journalists of the LRT Investigations Rūta Juknevičiūtė, Jurga Tvaskienė, Mindaugas Aušra, Jurgita Čeponytė and Indrė Makaraitytė
Ramunė Ramanauskienė, Director of Tauragės Kurjeris newspaper
Kęstutis Matulevičius, Editor in Chief of Lazdijų Žaigždė and Lazdijų Reklama newspapers
Edita Gudavičė, Editor in Chief of Savaitės Ekspresas newspaper and Vakarai magazine
Angelė Bartaševičienė, Editor in Chief of Šilalės Artojas newspaper
Brigita Sabaliauskaitė, Journalist of Kas Vyksta Kaune website
Ramūnas Bielevičius on behalf of Alytausgidas.lt
Irena Šeškevičienė, Audronė Griežienė and Livija Grajauskienė, journalists of Pajūrio Naujienos newspaper
Jurgita Jokubauskienė and Robertas Jokubauskas on behalf of Mažeikiai FM radio station
Journalists Rita Miliūtė and Vilma Danauskienė