Since 2015 Lithuanian municipalities spent one third (2 million euros) of their publicity budgets to media outlets related to politicians. Media linked to politicians was financed by every second municipality, shows Transparency International Lithuania which presented their findings at www.manovalstybe.info.
During the period of 2015 – 2018 Lithuanian municipalities spent at least 7,1 million euros for publicity. Publicity service was provided by 163 companies, however one third of the overall budget was allocated to 31 media companies with links to politicians.
Vilnius, Kaunas, Salcininkai and Taurage district municipalities spent the biggest proportion of their budgets to politically affiliated companies.
Vilnius district municipality spent 326,7 thousand euros on publicity, out of which 256,7 thousand euros went to company Rejspa. It is owned, among other shareholders, by Parliament members Vanda Kravcionok and Michal Mackevic, elected with Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance. Vilnius municipality Council members Jaroslav Kaminski and Rafael Muksinov, elected with Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania and Russian alliance coalition Valdemaras Tomasevskis blokas, also worked there.
Kaunas district municipality spent 427 thousand euros, out of which 184,6 thousand was allocated to companies Diena Media News and Pūkas. Pūkas is owned by a former Parliament member Kestutis Pukas and a current council member at Kaunas municipality Lina Pukiene, both of them linked to election committee Kaunas – kitokia Lietuva. Parliament member Ruta Miliute, elected with Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union political party, was previously employed by Diena Media News.
Salcininkai district municipality spent 162,4 thousand euros, out of which 141,4 thousand euros went to Rejspa and an individual enterprise owned by Dalia Jankelaitiene, a council member at Salcininkai district municipality.
Taurage district municipality spent 212,1 thousand euros, out of which 209,5 thousand euros were allocated to 4 companies with links to politicians – Televizijos komunikacijos, Taurages kurjeris, Tauragės zinios and Sou imperija.
Televizijos komunikacijos is owned by a council member at Taurage district municipality Vilmantas Liorancius from Liberals Movement of the Republic of Lithuania. Taurages Kurjeris is owned by a family member of another council member Robertas Piecius. His colleague Tomas Raulinavičius, elected with Social Democratic Party, is employed by Tauragės žinios. Sou imperija is related with a council member Rima Bandzinaitė-Latozienė and her husband, both working at the company.
5 municipalities did not provide any data about their expenses and these are as follows: Elektrenai, Kazlu Ruda, Neringa, Lazdijai and Zarasai districts municipalities.
Considering the outcomes of data analysis TI Lithuania recommends:
- to have clear goals and success indicators for publicity purchases at municipalities;
- to have clear guidelines how to properly manage possible conflicts of interest in municipalities;
- to publicly disclose the interests of media owners and editors-in-chief to raise media accountability and trust in their work.
TI Lithuania received financial data by sending Freedom of Information request to all municipalities asking about their expenses for publicity for the period of 2015 – 2018. All in all 55 municipalities provided information requested. It was later matched with data from Chief Official Ethics Commission and Central Electoral Commission to see possible links between the beneficiaries of funds and politicians.
TI Lithuania cooperated with the Institute of Sweden and Sweden’s embassy in Vilnius to implement the initiative.
More information might be found at www.manovalstybe.info