In an open letter to President Dalia Grybauskaitė, reporters and media professionals say that an amendment to the Criminal Code passed by the Lithuanian parliament on Thursday is an affront to free speech.
“Such a law would interfere with the public’s right to get information about court procedures. It would allow criminal prosecution of journalists and media organizations in cases when the society’s interest to be informed outweighs arguments used by courts to call a closed hearing or seal evidence,” the letter reads.
Journalists also note that, according to current judicial practice, information from closed court hearings are not necessarily shielded from public scrutiny.
The Lithuanian Seimas passed the amendment in a vote of 79 against one, with 11 abstentions. The addition to the Criminal Code foresees criminal liability for publication of evidence presented in closed court hearings.
The current laws only punish publication of pre-trial investigation material without permission from a judge, prosecutor or investigator.