Lithuania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Lithuania

Lithuania

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

18

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

7

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

6

The government generally respects the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech, and media operate independently of the state. Despite an improving economic situation and this year's European Union integration, corruption remains a huge problem and a sensitive topic for the media to cover. President Roland Paksas, who was impeached in April, attacked the media and restricted access to information. In February, a LNK Television correspondent was barred from the president's office and his accreditation terminated after he reported critically on two presidential aides. The opposition Liberal Democrats tried to remove the head of Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT), whom they accused of political censorship. In March, the parliament terminated its contract with the daily Respublika, following anti-Semitic articles by the daily's editor. In September, Russia's First Baltic Channel, based in Latvia, was almost taken off the air for broadcasting a documentary that allegedly distorted historic facts relating to the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States. The government closed down pro-Chechen rebel Web site Kavkaz-Center. It had tried to do so on previous occasions, but a 2003 court ruling stalled the decision. In November, a Vilnius court said the government acted unlawfully, and despite Russian protests, the Web site resumed operation.

Private broadcast operators criticized government-owned LRT, claiming that state funding and commercial advertising violate free competition. The government also applied pressure to LRT through budgetary controls. The print media are independent, and there are no government-owned papers. The media freely criticize the government, as was evidenced with this year's presidential impeachment, which the print media covered fairly. This year, concentration of media ownership among influential local business groups continued as several channels changed hands from foreign to domestic owners. Some media experts voiced concern over the potential for private TV stations to end up in the hands of one political force.