Today the European
Federation of Journalists (EFJ) welcomed a court ruling acquiting the Chairman of the Lithuanian Journalists' Union of libel.
"It is a great victory for
press freedom and for journalism as a public good" said EFJ President Arne
König. "We are glad and relieved to see that the Court applied the right of
journalists to tell the truth without fear, but we are still concerned by the
problems of ethics in Lithuanian media raised in this case".
Initially, Mr. Vitas Tomkus, the owner of the Respublikos
Leidiniai (Respublika Publications) media group, had filed a
private claim saying Dainius Radzevi?ius, chairman of the Lithuanian
Journalists' Union had defamed him in his personal blog by
quoting a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. The cable claimed that some
Lithuanian media outlets coerced advertisers into placing ads by threatening
them with smear campaigns. Radzevi?ius always said the blog entry referred to
specific media companies mentioned by several sources. In June 2012, a lower
court had ordered the head of the Journalists' Union to pay a fine of 2,600
litas (EUR 753.6) and pay 10,000 litas in non-pecuniary damages to Tomkus who
had initially asked for 1 million litas.
On 26 October, a Vilnius
High court acquitted Mr. Radzevi?ius of libeling Mr. Tomkus. This decision is the final ruling,
cancelling the previous decision of the lower cour and saying that Radzevi?ius
did not do anything that would feature characteristics of a crime or a criminal
"I believe the verdict brings back the right
for journalists to make problems public," Radzevi?ius said after the
acquittal. "In fact
the case had to do with the media‘s ethics, not with Mr. Tomkus".
The EFJ adds that this victory is
especially important in the light of efforts in other countries to toughen defamation laws, including recent
cases in Russia and Italy.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 00
The EFJ is the European group of the International Federation of Journalists
The EFJ represents over 300,000 journalists in 30 countries