Lithuania | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Lithuania

Lithuania

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 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

Lithuania’s constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and those guarantees are respected by the government in practice. According to the criminal code, libel or defamation is punishable by a fine or imprisonment, although no journalists have been imprisoned or fined during the last two years. Hate speech continues to be a criminal offense. In March, the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission fined the director of the music television channel MTV Lithuania 3,000 litas (US$1,150) for broadcasting the cartoon series Popetown, which satirizes the Vatican. The commission had based its ruling on a decision by the journalism ethics inspector that the series incited religious hatred. MTV Lithuania appealed the decision, and the case was pending at year’s end. The media freely criticize the government and express a wide variety of views. The Law on the Provision of Information to the Public and the Law on the Right to Obtain Information from State and Local Government Institutions regulate the public’s right to information.

More than 300 privately owned newspapers publish in Lithuanian, Russian, and a few other languages. In addition to the public broadcast media, dozens of independent television and radio stations are available nationally, regionally, and locally. However, media ownership has undergone increased concentration over the last several years, leading to concerns about the possible effects on media independence and quality. Investors in the country’s media market include both domestic firms and foreign companies, mainly from Scandinavia. According to the market research company TNS Latvia, Lithuania’s media advertising market volume increased by 15.6 percent in 2007 from 2006; television accounted for more than 45 percent of Lithuania’s total advertising market share, followed by newspapers with 25 percent. The government does not limit access to the internet, and the popularity of internet news portals continues to grow. Nonetheless, only about 34 percent of Lithuanians made use of the internet—the lowest percentage among the three Baltic countries.