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VILNIUS – The Seimas of Lithuania on Saturday started deliberating proposed amendments expanding the existing list of banned information.
Lawmakers told the parliamentary Committee on Culture to analyze and merge two separate bills proposed by the Committee and the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats. The parliament plans to return to the discussion of these amendments in the spring.
Almost two weeks ago, the Committee on Culture registered amendments to the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public, banning the publication of information which, among other things, "is aimed at distorting the historic memory of the Republic of Lithuania, encouraging distrust and dissatisfaction with the State of Lithuania, promoting ethnic and cultural divides, weakening national identity and citizenship, undermining citizens' determination to defend their country, or is used in other ways to influence the country's democracy, election processes and the party system, to the detriment of Lithuania's national security interests."
Such a formulation had been proposed by Lithuania's media watchdog, the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania, saying that Lithuanian needs to transpose the revised EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
Media experts, however, view the amendments as a threat to the freedom of speech. They have also been criticized by the parliament's lawyers and the president herself.
The bans proposed by the Committee of Culture are included into the National Security Strategy, listed as information threats.
Meanwhile, the opposition HU-LCD has drafted a different version, suggesting banning "information disseminated by other states and related subjects, inciting war and hatred, spreading other unfounded and misleading information directed against Lithuania's national security interests, aimed at encouraging distrust and dissatisfaction with the State of Lithuania, the democratic order, national defense, aimed at discrediting Lithuania's NATO membership, NATO capabilities and commitments to defend allies, undermining citizens' determination to defend their state, as well as informational activity by other states and related subjects, aimed at influencing democratic and election processes in the country."
The same amendments are also aimed at giving the RTCL more powers to more swiftly respond to the dissemination of banned information, banning the broadcasting of TV programs without a court order for up to 72 hours.