The high number of physical attacks, unjustified and humiliating lawsuits against journalists and laws that restrict freedom of expression or free access to information, are still a major and in some EU countries growing problem, according to Liberties’ Freedom of the Press Report 2023.
In this report Liberties’ (watchdog CSO that safeguards the human rights of everyone in the European Union) in cooperation with more than 20 human rights organizations from 18 EU countries reviewed the state and issues of media freedom in the EU in 2022. The report discusses the changes in the areas of the media and information freedom, journalists’ freedom of expression and protection, which were not only regulated by European law but also by major events such as Russia’s war with Ukraine (the situation of disinformation) and the elections held in Bulgaria, Hungary and other countries last year.
Media freedom is an essential condition for a democratic state. The data presented in the report shows that a significant number of countries have not paid sufficient attention to addressing the problems related to restrictions on media freedom. However, the European Media Freedom Act, which is still under discussion in the EU, is a major and important step towards protecting and safeguarding media freedom and independence.
Meanwhile, in Lithuanian, it would be important to mention several aspects:
- According to the 2022 Eurobarometer, 70% of Lithuanians cited television as their main media outlet, while more than half, around 56%, said they consider public service broadcaster and radio as a reliable provider of information.
- The Public Information Act of The Republic of Lithuania was changed as a countermeasure to incitement of hatred and violence and dissemination propaganda related to Russia’s war in Ukraine. As a result, radio and TV programmes that are owned by or located in Russia or Belarus have been banned.
- In the overall context, Lithuania’s situation regarding to the right to receive and disseminate information is relatively good. There are cases where access to information of public interest is denied under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, however, oftentimes later the court grants access to the data. Lithuania should continue to work to improve the accessibility of official documents, which is sometimes restricted on the basis of a misinterpretation of the Data Protection Regulation.