Respecting Freedom of Expression - Blocking of TV in Lithuania

TeliaSonera in December 2013 adopted a Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications, available here . According to our Policy we will, wheneve...


TeliaSonera in December 2013 adopted a Group Policy on Freedom of Expression in Telecommunications, available here . According to our Policy we will, whenever possible, report on our efforts in relation to such as blocking or restricting access to specific services or content.

Government’s requests or demands often serve legitimate purposes such as the protection of certain human rights, but they may also be problematic in that they could conflict with other human rights. TeliaSonera’s commitment is to respect freedom of expression in telecommunications.

The Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission in two separate occasions in March and April has ordered all Lithuanian TV providers to block programs of TV channels NTV Mir and RTR Planeta, which are not of the origin of EU, EEA and countries, which ratified Councils’ of Europe Convention on TV without frontiers. The decisions were based on the Authority’s assessment that one program in each respective channel contained disinformation and inducement of hatred. The suspension is valid for the duration 3 months. A court has sanctioned the blocking-decisions, and TEO has implemented the blocking.

TEO, together with other 27 TV providers, appealed the Commission’s decision regarding NTV Mir Lithuania and asked it to be changed. Teo argued that operators are not able to, and should not, decide which programs are of which origin, and operators cannot execute court’s decision as to programs.

The Court dismissed the appeal based on the argument that the decision cannot be appealed. TEO, together with other TV providers, plan to appeal also this decision. Teo has also appealed the second Commission decision, the one regarding RTR Planeta.

It is our view that the Court should not force the TV providers to block the full channels, but to provide appropriate instructions on how to implement the decision in such circumstances. We advocate proportionality and necessity for any blocking of content. Broadly conceived orders are not appropriate when freedom of expression is at stake.