Expression

Lithuania’s press is reasonably free, with a mix of publicly and privately-owned outlets in operation. Political parties may not directly own media companies however there is a lack of transparency concerning media ownership. The authorities monitor broadcasts of Russian programmes into the country after increased tensions over the annexation of Crimea. Some Russian media in the country have been fined for misconduct including inciting public discord and hatred. In 2014, two Russian programmes were suspended from being rebroadcast by the regulatory authority because they were alleged to have contained ‘Russian propaganda.’ LGBTI groups have had their free-expression rights restricted due to a 2010 law, which says minors must not be exposed to information that advocates for LGBTI relations. This law has been used on occasion to censor information from LGBTI groups through the media. LGBTI groups have also raised concerns that, in 2014, the parliament attempted to remove criminal liability on homophobic hate speech. Other restrictions on free expression in Lithuania relate to security. In 2013, the secret service obtained an order allowing it to search a newspaper and seize its computers after it revealed a secret report. The order was later annulled following a public outcry. The constitutional definition of freedom of expression does not include slander; disinformation; or “hate speech”. Certain instances of hate speech are punishable by imprisonment for up to three years. Defamation remains a criminal offence in Lithuania. The Lithuanian Criminal Code allows for up to two years in prison in certain cases of libel and defamation. Such a law may exert a significant chilling effect on the media whether or not it is actively applied. The law on advertising provides that advertising may be prohibited if it violates the principles of public morality or denigrates religious symbols.