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President's office revokes accreditation

  • 2004-02-26
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - The revoking of a journalist's credentials this week by presidential officials has raised the ire of the media and opposition MPs, with the Liberal and Center faction referring to the decision as "Belarusian methods of fighting against the press."

Petras Linge, a journalist for the national channel LNK, attended President Rolandas Paksas' press conference on Feb. 24 and presented his permit to officials of the VIP Protection Department, who later did not return the document to him.
The reporter was told that presidential spokeswoman Jurate Overlingiene had ordered the cancellation of his credentials for allegedly violating the rules of work at the president's office.
Last week Linge prepared a report about a meeting at the president's office that included presidential security adviser Evaldas Vaitkus, defense adviser Algirdas Norkus and parliamentarian Vytautas Sustauskas behind a breakfast table at the president's office's cafe.
Overlingiene also reproached a reporter from the Baltic News Service, which covered the mentioned meeting.
The Liberal and Center faction compared Overlingiene's decision to revoke Linge's press credentials with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko's methods of limiting freedom of the press.
"The president's office, dependent on taxpayers, is a public state institution. However, the recent actions lead to the conclusion that presidential advisers consider the house on Simonas Daukantas Square to be a personal office where they can do whatever they want," Eligijus Masiulis of the Liberal and Center faction was cited in a Feb. 24 statement as saying.
In Masiulis' opinion, the decision to strip the LNK reporter of his credentials may be considered an attempt to persecute journalists for their criticism of the president and their attempts to inform the public about controversial events at the president's office.
Edmundas Jakilaitis, who heads the LNK news service, called the decision to revoke the press credentials an "unquestionable violation of the mass media law and other laws that prohibit the persecution of journalists for criticism."
"The public interest to know what is happening at the president's office is much more important than the new instructions from presidential spokeswoman Jurate Overlingiene, which journalists have neither signed nor even seen," Jakilaitis said.
He did not rule out the possibility of going to the courts in response to these actions against the journalist.
This was not the first time the president's office tried to curb the journalists' rights to obtain information. At the end of last year, employees of the president's office denied entry to representatives of the national media, admitting only representatives of regional publications. In addition, during one of the president's recent press conferences, most representatives of the media that were critical of Paksas' activities were not allowed to ask questions.