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2018 / 10 / 24

How long should politicians’ data be publicly available?

The public interest to know does not end when a politician’s term of office expires. This is the position on publishing the data of public figures that was expressed in a discussion by Law Institute of Lithuania researcher Dr Laurynas Pakštaitis. The discussion “How to implement data protection requirements without diminishing the public’s right to know?”, which took place on 23 October, was organised by Transparency International Lithuania and The White Gloves, a public organisation.

Vice-Minister of Justice Irma Gudžiūnaitė gave a presentation to the discussion participants on the proposals of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania to remove the data of people who have run in various elections from the public domain. According to the proposal, such data should be made public for one or two terms, depending on how the candidate fared in the election. The ministry prepared its proposals based on the General Data Protection Regulation (hereinafter – the GDPR) and the practice of other countries.

Dr Pakštaitis contended that it is not expedient to limit the time during which information about politicians is public. As an example, the researcher presented the story of one theatre’s manager who had run for municipal council and submitted his data at that time. Those data were important both for identifying potentially abusive schemes and for assessing the situation over time. The researcher therefore believes that the public’s right to know is a priority.

Chairwoman of the Central Electoral Commission Laura Matjošaitytė put forth a position in the discussion that the GDPR is not tailored to regulate the data of public figures, so the CEC suggests making the data of these individuals public for an indefinite period.

Transparency International Lithuania project manager Dr Eglė Kavoliūnaitė-Ragauskienė pointed out that the courts have also spoken on publishing the data of politicians – in 2008, an opinion was expressed that the data of politicians can be published for an indefinite period. Virginija Būdienė, head of the Institute for Policy Analysis, opposed restrictions on the publication of data – according to her, there are many bad examples in the world where politicians try to conceal information about themselves as soon as possible, so all conditions must be made for the public to obtain this information without time limitations. Human Rights Monitoring Institute jurist Karolis Liutkevičius did not agree with this, emphasising the human right to privacy and the possibility of using publicly accessible information for bullying or the like.