A coalition of international press freedom organisations has hit out at a move to force some Russian “government-controlled” TV stations off Lithuanian airwaves.
Lithuania’s Committee on Radio and Television is reportedly considering, at the request of the government, to ban two Russian television channels from broadcasting to the Baltic country.
The channels in question — RTR Planeta and NTV Mir Lithuania — have in the past been handed down temporary suspensions of specific programs, according to the commission head Edmundas Vaitiekunas.
“If a ban is imposed on the whole channel due to repeated violations, I believe it should be longer … I believe it should be up to one year,” Vaitiekunas added in comments to the Baltic News Service earlier this year.
Russian state-owned media such as RT (formerly Russia Today), has come under fire for alleged distortion of facts in the their coverage, especially in relation to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
In a letter this week to the Lithuanian President, media freedom organisations including the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and the World Press Freedom Committee, argued that while they understand the objection to certain Russian broadcasts in “the current tense situation”, they consider a ban to be counterproductive and in contradiction of international free speech standards.
“If put into effect, bans on broadcasts across frontiers would almost inevitably be seized upon by the Russian authorities to justify bans on broadcasts by independent news media from other countries,” the letter states.
“It is an established conviction in free societies that the best answer to bad speech is more speech. We can see from the reaction to recent events in Moscow that there is a large public that is open to arguments, news reports and information to counteract official propaganda. The risk should not be taken to cut off such audiences from the free flow of information from outside their borders,” the group added.