VILNIUS - The Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Thursday it is taking its proposal on the release of official information back for further discussions and improvement following media criticism.
"The Ministry of National Defense is suspending the approval procedure for the amendments to the Law on the Right of Access to Information from State and Local Authority Bodies and the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public," it said in a comment forwarded to BNS.
The ministry admitted that the draft amendments "need to be improved and require more in-depth discussions with social groups concerned".
The draft amendments, registered by the ministry early this week, introduce the concept of "information for official use", making such information not appropriate for public release.
Under the proposal, this marking would have been used for information related to issues on which state and municipal authorities have yet to make a final decision.
Opinions and positions intended for internal work purposes and information on internal working arrangements of an institution or body would also have fallen into this classification.
The amendments were drafted following consultations within a working group made up of representatives from the ministries for defense, interior, economy and innovation, and transport and communications, the 15min online news site has reported.
Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis appointed the working group in December 2018, according to the website.
'WOULD HAVE UNDERMINED THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS'
Dainius Radzevicius, the chairman of the Lithuanian Journalists' Union, says the proposed amendments would have ruined the current "constitutional and legal procedure for the provision of information" and undermined the legislative process.
If passed, the bill "would basically mean that we would not be able to find out anything about any unadopted decisions," Radzevicius told BNS.
"It could be anything from a draft law to a draft decree or new regulation," he added.
According to the Defense Ministry, the amendments were aimed at solving an old problem of information exchange with EU and NATO structures in the absence of a national equivalent to the NATO UNCLASSIFIED or EU LIMITE security markings.
The ministry said in its response forwarded to BNS that the "information for official use" marking would be used for data the release of which could harm the interests of the state or its allies, the course of negotiations and objective decision-making, or draw the interest of foreign intelligence services.
It insists that the proposals would not have restricted the media's access to information.
According to the ministry, it will now look for other ways to lower the security requirements for some of the information currently marked as "restricted", ensuring its proper administration.
Draft amendments tabled by ministries have to be endorsed by the Cabinet before being sent to the Seimas for approval.