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Lithuania – (E7) Code of ethics at the national level (structure)

Score in short:

Lithuania has an institutionalized system of media self-regulation with two institutions established according to media law; in 2009, the Lithuanian Journalists Union established their own self-regulation institution.

Score in detail:

According to media law, Lithuania has a “regulated self-regulation” system. Two institutions are involved in handling complaints on media performance, namely the Ethics Commission of Journalists and Publishers and the office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics (both institutions are written in media law and were established in 1996).

The Ethics Commission functions according to the principles of media self-regulation and the office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics is a regulatory institution. The Ethics Commission mainly deals with journalist ethics, and the major document on which it bases its decisions is the Ethics Code. The office of the Inspector observes how the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public (media law) functions as well as adherence to the regulation according to the Law on the Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effect of Public Information and others laws.

The Lithuanian system was inspired by the Swedish model of media self-regulation, but in practice its function is limited due to certain drawbacks. one among many drawbacks is financial – the Commission is funded by the state (through the Press Fund) and its budget is limited only to administrative purposes (honorariums to members paid for each meeting). The Commission does not perform media monitoring and limits its functions only to decision-making. The office of the Inspector is funded by the state, and the Inspector is a public servant (he is employed by the state); his office employs experts for media monitoring, especially for cases that might deal with violation of the rights of minors. The Inspector also has the power to penalize an information provider (by administrative order) if he/she detects that the media firm has offended the law. one aspect that becomes crucially important in the analysis of media performance is the question of whether the mass media adhere to the demands of the designated institutions to publish negations (corrections). As research studies reveal, the media only seldom publish negations in a form that is clearly identifiable. Both institutions have the power to announce their decisions on public radio, however in a ten-year period representatives of these two bodies have only used this possibility on a few occasions. The Commission follows a practice of writing letters and warnings to the chief editors of media that violate the Code. Another way to make this issue public is to assign a special label of “a medium that does not comply with the rules of the Code”, and inform the mass media of this. In 2010, two dailies were assigned this label (Lietuvos žinios ir Respublika).

As a response to different limitations in the working practices of these institutions, in 2009 the Lithuanian Journalists Union established their own institution of self-regulation. Its main mission is to give an account of media performance and to clarify different clauses of the Ethics Code (for example, on the conflicts of interest of media professionals and so forth).