19 Jun 2014

Phone hacking scandal in Lithuania

The Chief Prosecutor's Office of Lithuania has announced that phone conversations of 17 current and former employees of the information agency Baltic News Service have been bugged by Special Investigations Service (STT) during pre-trial investigation in the case of reveal and abuse of state secrecy. The investigation was started last year after BNS reported that Lithuania's State Security Department (VSD) had warned state leaders and two parliamentry committes about possible information provocations from Russian intelligence services. STT also raided the home of the editor of BNS, interrogated six co-workers of BNS and seized some computers. In November, Vilnius Regional Court announced that the raid and interrogation were illegal. It is so far not clear, why the phones of people who were already not working for BNS at the beginnig of the investigation were bugged. It is also not known, who long did the wiretapping last.

building of STT (by lrytas.lt)

BNS has appelaed against the wiretapping: "It is a serious violation of press freedom and absolutely unaccaptbale in a democratic state" - says their press release. They also added that it could reveal confident informations sources.

Prime minister Algirdas Butkevičius condemned the measures applied. President Dalia Grybauskaitė also expressed her view that law enforcement should apply proportional measures and old fashioned, soviet-style methods should be avoided.

In November last year , Grybauskaitė  has proposed changes in legislation raising the security of journalists and tightening the requirements of conducting investigations against journalists. Although the president has suggested to the Parliament to discuss it in an urgent manner, the law and legislation committe has approved it only this week.

Darius Raulušaitis, temporarily acting as Chief Prosecutor has informed the press that there is one (female) suspect in the investigation.

Later on, Artūras Paulauskas, chairman of the State Security and Defence Committe has said in an interview, that the information leaked by BNS was not qualified as state secret. It could have been only considered as confidential, which means that the whole investigation was unsubstantiated. He also expressed incomprehension about the fact that the case was handed over to STT.






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