Limiting the right to freedom of expression, the rights of national minorities remain the most problematic topics in the sphere of human rights in Lithuania.
According to human rights defenders, the tendency of strengthening control over the media and access to the Internet is gaining momentum in Lithuania. The new law on cyber security contains the provision that states that any resident of Lithuania can be disconnected from the Internet up to 48 hours without legal proceedings if his IP-address or equipment is involved in criminal activity. Now the police are able to identify the user, his postal address, to find his geographical location, phone number or other access information, his accounts and payments information.
The pressure on the Russian-language media has increased. The Department of State Security accused the newspapers «Lithuanian Courier», «Review», «Express-Week» and the First Baltic Channel in lobbying for the Moscow’s interests. Several Lithuanian politicians supported the suppression of the Russian media. The audit of the channels RTR-Planeta, NTV Mir Lithuania and the retransmitting channel Ren TV Baltic (Lietuva) was initiated. These channels were suspected of violating the journalistic ethics, which is fraught with stopping the broadcasting on the territory of Lithuania. During this year the broadcasting of the TV channels RTR-Planeta and NTV Mir Lithuania has been stopped for 3 months.
The lack of clear regulations of the national minorities’ rights lead to violations of the right of national communities who live in Lithuania. For example, the Polish community considers it discriminatory to prohibit the usage of the Polish language as an auxiliary one in Vilnius and Šalčininkai where Poles make 60 per cent and 80 per cent of the population correspondently.
The European Foundation of Human Rights on July 24, 2014 in Vilnius
presented a thematic report «Respect for human rights in Lithuania in 2012 – 2013 (Rights of national minorities in Lithuania)», where it analyses the
situation of protection of the national minorities’ rights in Lithuania,
including rights to education, spelling of names and surnames, use of
minority languages in the public sphere. The report notes more regress
than progress in the sphere of human rights, in particular, the termination of the Act of national minorities, the existence of regulations containing discrimination provisions (for example the Education Act, particularly concerning the usage of the minority languages, absence of benefits for the members of national minorities during the final examination in the Lithuanian language).
Following international commitments have been violated:
art. 20 (any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law)
art. 27 (right of national minorities to use their own language)
art. 3 (right to be prohibited from racial segregation)
art. 4 (commitment to adopt measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, racial discrimination)
art. 5 (right of everyone without distinction to equality before the law, including the right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm, whether inflicted by government officials or by any individual group or institution)
Rights of National Minorities, Right to be Protected from Racial Discrimination, Right to Security of Person, Right to be Protected from Torture, Right to be Protected from Arbitrary Interference to Privacy and Home
February 16, 2014, Kaunas: about 1.000 people took part in a march organized by the Lithuanian National Youth Union on the Day of Restoration of the State of Lithuania.
The march participants chanted slogans «Lithuania for Lithuanians!», «Neither for the West, nor for the East!», «Lithuania for Lithuanian children!», «Brothers, we are white!», «Lithuania for Lithuanians,
Lithuanians for Lithuania!». The march was sanctioned by the authorities.
By the end of the event some participants of the march beat a Pakistani man.
The head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal E.Zuroff: «It’s like the Nazis march. These people do not like Lithuania. We are not against the patriots, however, the people’s attitude is distorted».
March 11, 2014, Vilnius: the traditional nationalist march took place on Lithuania’s Independence Day. At the beginning of the march the police insisted that participants remove Waffen SS badges and armbands with swastika from their clothes to reduce international criticism towards such activities. Due to the taken measures the march passed quietly. According to witnesses, there were no fascist or anti-Semitic slogans.
March 11, 2014, Šalčininkai District Municipality, administrative center Yashunay: the signs in Polish were torn off from private houses by unknown on the Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania in the area where up to 80 per cent of the population are Poles.
The European Foundation of Human Rights condemned the incident and expressed concern, that the lack of clear regulation of minority rights in Lithuania causes unacceptable violations of human rights. «Everyone has the right to protection of property, and freedom of speech. Moreover, it should be remembered that racial discrimination can be punished by law», – said EFHR in its statement.
Right to Freedom of Expression, Freedom to Seek, Receive and Impart Information
One of the oldest Lithuanian national newspapers «Respublika» fell into crisis because of the financial sanctions from the authorities – its Russian version was closed. Late in April 2014, the Commission on the Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers deprived the periodical of 9 per cent discount VAT rate and the opportunity to participate in the competition for the government contractual work, after accusing the newspaper of violating of professional ethics. Its representatives believe that the sanctions were caused mainly by the publications revealing the shady activities of the administrators of the failed bank «Snoras».
A 3-month ban on the broadcasting the programs of Russian TV channel RTR Planeta, produced outside the EU, came into force on July 4, 2014. The reason was a news program «News of the Week» shown on March 2 about the events in the Crimea, where, in the opinion of Lithuania’s Commission for Radio and Television, ethnic dissension and military climate was instigated. Previously the broadcasting of the channel NTV Mir was terminated after its screening a documentary film «The Condemned». A similar 3-month ban was imposed in October 2013 against the First Baltic Channel.
Displeased residents of Visaginas began collecting signatures against the termination of the Russian TV channels. The decision of the State Commission on Broadcasting was called undemocratic and interpreted as an attempt to assimilate the Russian-speaking population.
Vygaudas Ušackas, Head of the EU Delegation to the Russian Federation, criticized the sanctions: «The ban does not solve the problem, but it undermines the maturity of civil society and freedom of expression».
Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, has previously expressed the opinion that such sanctions violate media pluralism and have a negative impact on freedom of the media and expression.
Document data: foreign ministry of Belarus, 27.02.2015. Link: http://mfa.gov.by/upload/GUMDI/MFA_HRreport2014_en.pdf Also available in Russian: http://mfa.gov.by/upload/GUMDI/MFA_HRreport2014_ru.pdf