Media Law in Lithuania (Part One - Sources)
Basic principles of Media law in Lithuania
The core principle of media law in the Republic of Lithuania is the right of an individual to seek, obtain, and disseminate information and ideas without any interference. This right, however, may not restrict the rights and freedoms of other individuals. This right applies to all interferences, whether by state actors or non-state actors. Also, the Constitution of Lithuania provides that the freedom to express one's convictions and to impart information does not include freedom to engage in criminal actions like the incitement of national, racial, religious, or social hatred, violence and discrimination, with slander and disinformation. Generally, the government may not restrict the right to express one's convictions and to obtain and disseminate information except if necessary to protect human rights, health, honor and dignity, private life, or community morals, or to defend the constitutional order. Another important principle is that government censorship of mass media is prohibited in Lithuania.
Constitutional sources of Media law in Lithuania
As in the most countries, the Lithuanian Constitution is the country's primary source of law. The Constitution has priority over all legislation adopted by the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas. Chapter II of Lithuanian Constitution grants basic human rights, such as the right of expression, the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. However, these rights are not without some limitations; rather, the government may hinder citizens from seeking, receiving and, imparting specific information by the law. Generally, the Constitution protects human honor and dignity in Lithuania. According to this constitutional provision, the press and mass media are prohibited from dishonoring any natural person. Specifically, Article 22 of the Lithuanian Constitution states that the law and the courts will protect everyone from arbitrary or unlawful interference in their private and family lives and from encroachment upon their honor and dignity. Various legal interpretations exist with regard to the encroachment of one's honor and dignity. However, precise grounds of responsibility for damage are not fully set in Lithuanian laws and practice. The court's judgment in the matter of defamation plays an important role due to the fact that a person may be found guilty of a crime and labelled a ““criminal.”” If a person is so labelled without a relevant court decision, it constitutes dishonor and defamation. The Criminal Code of Lithuania prohibits defaming any person.
Codified sources of Media law in Lithuania
The main codified source that regulates the rights and restrictions of press and mass media is the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public in Lithuania, which governs producers and disseminators of public information. Journalists are also governed in their activities by the Constitution and laws, international treaties of the Republic of Lithuania, and the principles of humanism, equality, tolerance, and respect for an individual person.
The second important codified source concerning media law in Lithuania is The Civil Code of Lithuania. The Civil Code of Lithuania regulates the right to a private life of the natural person (Article 2.23) as well as the protection of the person's honor and dignity (Article 2.24). Generally speaking, the Civil Code of Lithuania governs property relationships and personal, non-property relationships, as well as family relationships.
The Labour Code of Lithuania is one of most influential codified sources of media law in Lithuania. Article 35 requires employers, employees, and their representatives to comply with laws, observe the rules of communal life, and adhere to the principles of reasonableness, justice and honesty.
The Law on Copyright and Related Rights in Lithuania regulates authors' rights in literary, scientific and artistic works, the rights of performers, producers, and broadcasting organizations in the first fixation of an audiovisual work, and the rights of makers of databases in their work. The Act also governs how authors may exercise and enforce their statutory rights.
The Law on Advertising in Lithuania regulates the dissemination of information about goods and services, the protection of consumer interests, and the protection from unfair business competition.
While not vested with the power of law, the Code of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers is another valuable source of regulations in media law. According to the Code of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers, accession and dissemination of information is one of the fundamental human rights and must be respected, but its implementation must guarantee all other rights and freedoms. Additionally, information must not be considered as a purchase and may not be bought or sold using money. Moreover, journalists must be sure that the information they are spreading is undoubtedly correct.
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