Viewing cable 09VILNIUS381
Title: PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES VETO TO PASS LAW THAT COULD

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09VILNIUS3812009-07-14 14:44:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
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DE RUEHVL #0381/01 1951444
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P 141444Z JUL 09
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000381 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV LH
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES VETO TO PASS LAW THAT COULD 
RESTRICT INFO ON HOMOSEXUALITY 
 
¶1. SUMMARY:  Lithuania's parliament overrode a presidential 
veto and passed amendments to a law on protecting minors from 
harmful effects of public information.  The law has drawn 
complaints from Lithuanian and international human-rights 
organizations that said the amendments could make it illegal 
to present any positive information about homosexuality. The 
amendments define as harmful any information that promotes 
homosexual, bisexual or polygamous relations, or distorts 
family relations and scorns family values.  In fact, the law 
provides exceptions for information that is useful in 
science, the arts, research or teaching, or is of public 
interest.  But it writes into law the current system for 
rating TV programs, requires similar ratings on computer 
games, and appears to require Internet service providers to 
install filtering systems to prevent minors from accessing 
"harmful" information.  We will continue to press the 
Lithuanian government to modify this ill-considered law.  End 
summary. 
 
¶2.  The Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) voted July 14 to 
override a June 26 veto by then-President Adamkus and pass 
amendments to an existing law designed to protect minors from 
harmful effects of public information.  The new additions to 
the law include a provision defining as harmful to minors any 
information that promotes homosexual, bisexual or polygamous 
relations.  Human-rights groups in Lithuania and abroad had 
fought passage of the law, saying that it could prevent young 
people from receiving neutral, factual information about 
homosexuality.  They also said the law amounted to censorship 
and violated Lithuania's commitments to the United Nations 
and European Union concerning freedom of expression.  In 
vetoing the law in June, then-President Adamkus said the 
criteria for determining whether information was suitable for 
minors were too vague and abstract; he also questioned 
whether it violated free-speech guarantees. 
 
¶3. Actually, the law lists exceptions for information that is 
useful in science, the arts, research or teaching; involves a 
person's political, social or religious beliefs; or is of 
public interest.  (Judgments on value must still be made. 
Despite the exception for the arts, the general director of a 
Lithuanian TV company was fined almost 1,000 USD earlier this 
year for airing earlier than 11 p.m. an advertisement for a 
Lithuanian production of the musical "Sweeney Todd."  That 
musical features murder, mutilation and cannibalism -- 
depictions of which were already prohibited under the law. 
The case is being appealed.) 
 
¶4. The law says that no TV broadcasts will be prohibited on 
the basis of the information they contain as long as they are 
marked with the ratings symbol showing the age for which each 
program is appropriate.  Lithuania has had such a ratings 
system in place through government regulation, but this is 
the first time it has been written into law.  The law also 
requires producers and distributors of computer games to 
provide age-appropriate ratings, following guidelines to be 
set by the GOL. 
 
¶5. Internet service providers will be required to "ensure the 
introduction and functioning of filtering measures" to 
prevent minors from accessing detrimental content via the 
Internet, according to the law, which also says the GOL's 
Information Society Development Committee will determine the 
rules for such filtering. 
 
¶6. More parliamentarians voted to override the veto than had 
voted for the law in the first place.  President 
Grybauskaite, who took office only on July 12, does not have 
the option to veto the law again, and a spokesman said she 
would sign it "with regret."  Eligijus Masiulis, the leader 
of the Liberal Movement, one of four parties in the governing 
coalition, said his party would ask the Constitutional Court 
to declare the law unconstitutional as a violation of 
free-speech rights.  He also said, "In this technological 
world it is impossible to prevent people from receiving 
information.  It would be more effective to educate youth so 
they grow up independent, thoughtful and able to make 
choices." 
 
¶7. The chairman of the Tolerant Youth Association, a 
Lithuanian NGO, told us the amendments ban "any positive 
information, or 'propaganda,' as they put it, about 
homosexuals."  Instead, he said, the law "puts homosexuals 
into the same category with the display of dead or cruelly 
mutilated bodies and information that causes fear or horror 
or encourages suicide." 
 
¶8. COMMENT: While the provision of the law prohibiting 
promotion of homosexual relations has drawn the most 
attention from human-rights supporters, the requirement that 
Internet service providers filter their content to prevent 
minors from accessing harmful material will probably create 
 
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more difficult and unintended consequences.  While people are 
capable of making judgments as to whether a particular piece 
of information falls under the law or the exceptions to it, 
computer filters have no capacity for reason.  We will 
continue to press Lithuanian authorities to modify this 
poorly-conceived and -drafted law, which appears to violate 
Lithuania's international obligations as well as common sense. 
LEADER