The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, although the law prohibits “hate speech” and dissemination of certain other objectionable materials. The government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote these freedoms.
Freedom of Speech: Individuals could criticize government policies publicly or privately without reprisal, and the government did not attempt to impede criticism. The constitutional definition of freedom of expression does not protect incitement to national, racial, religious, or social hatred; violence and discrimination; slander; and disinformation. Inciting hatred against a group of persons is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years. Inciting violence against a group of persons is punishable by imprisonment of up to three years.
It is a crime to deny or “grossly trivialize” Soviet or Nazi German crimes against the country or its citizens or to deny genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.
According to the law, insulting a civil servant performing official duties is a crime punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to two years. In the first eight months of the year, authorities registered 3,087 violations of either resisting arrest or insulting a civil servant.
The law makes insulting or defaming the president of the country in the mass media a crime punishable by a fine of 500 to 1,000 litas ($198 to $396) for first-time offenders and 1,000 to 3,000 litas ($396 to $1,190) for repeat offenders. Authorities did not invoke it during the year.
The Ministry of Interior reported that, in the first eight months of the year, authorities initiated investigations into 80 allegations of incitement of hatred, most of them involving the internet. In the same period, investigators forwarded 35 incitement cases to the courts for trial, closed 48, and suspended 70 for lack of evidence. They continued to investigate a number of others. Most allegations of incitement of hatred involved racist or anti-Semitic expression or hostility based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or nationality.
Press Freedoms: The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views but were subject to the same laws that prohibit “hate speech” and criminalize speech that grossly trivializes international and war crimes. Radio and television broadcasters included a mix of independent and public stations. International media generally operated without restriction.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania (RTCL) suspended broadcasts of programs from the Russian state-owned television channel RTR-Planeta from April 8 until July 7. According to the RTCL, the channel’s reportage of events in Crimea in its Weekly News program on March 2 violated Article 19 of the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public, which prohibits media reports that instigate war or hatred. The Vilnius District Administrative Court affirmed the decision on April 7. Following the three-month ban, RTR-Planeta returned to its regular broadcasting. In March the RTCL successfully blocked broadcast of a documentary by NTV Mir Lithuania, a Russian-language television station based in Russia and broadcasting in Lithuania. Authorities claimed the documentary distorted facts pertaining to the country’s struggle for independence in 1991.
It is illegal to publish material “detrimental to minors’ bodies” or thought processes or that promotes the sexual abuse and harassment of minors, sexual relations among minors, or “sexual relations.” Human rights observers continued to criticize this law (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity).
Libel Laws/National Security: It is a crime to disseminate information that is untrue and damaging to an individual’s honor and dignity. Libel is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or up to two years for libelous material disseminated through the mass media.
On July 17, the Vilnius Regional Court annulled provisions of a law that allowed secret surveillance and wiretapping of journalists from the Baltic News Service (BNS) in 2013. In October 2013 the BNS published an article that authorities alleged contained classified information. At the prosecutor general’s request, the Special Investigation Service (SIS) investigated to determine the source of the leak. The SIS searched the home of the BNS editor, interrogated six BNS employees, and seized computers. The BNS refused to disclose its source. Many journalists and some politicians called the investigation a crackdown on press and speech. In December 2013 a Vilnius court ruled that both the search of the editor’s home and the order to disclose her source of information were unlawful.
There were no government restrictions on access to the internet or credible reports that the government monitored private communications without appropriate legal authority. Individuals and groups could generally engage in the expression of views via the internet, including by e-mail. Authorities prosecuted a number of persons for posting open internet material that authorities considered to incite hatred. For example, in August, according to the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, prosecutors charged an individual before the Trakai District Court with advocating the death of LGBT persons on an internet news portal. The court acquitted the defendant, ruling that her comments did not rise to the level of instigation of hatred.
According to the Information Society Development Committee under the Ministry of Transportation, 66 percent of the population used the internet, including 71 percent of residents in urban areas and 57 percent of residents in rural areas.
On September 3, the Delphi.lt news portal announced that it was the victim of a denial-of-service attack that coincided with live coverage of President Obama’s visit to Estonia.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.