Victory for press freedom in Lithuanian defamation case

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

offense.

"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

(IFJ)
The EFJ represents over 300,000 journalists in 30 countries