Lithuania bans Russian TV station over alleged 'warmongering'

AFP , Wednesday 8 Apr 2015

Lithuania on Wednesday banned a Russian-language television channel for three months, accusing it of propaganda while covering events in Ukraine.

The Baltic state's media watchdog suspended RTR Planeta for "inciting discord, warmongering, spreading biased information", spokeswoman Birute Kersiene said.

"This programme has repeatedly spread such information, therefore its broadcast was suspended for three months," Kersiene told AFP.

The channel is registered in Sweden but its producers are Russia-owned media company, VGTRK, she said.

Contacted by AFP in Moscow, an RTR Planeta official said Wednesday they had "no comment" to make.

Lithuania, which is both a NATO and EU member, is a vocal supporter of Ukraine.

Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and its meddling in eastern Ukraine have triggered concern in Baltic states which emerged from nearly five decades of Soviet occupation in the early 1990s.

Ethnic Russians make up only six percent of Lithuania's population, compared with a quarter in Estonia and Latvia, but Vilnius has led the way in denouncing what it describes as disinformation campaigns by Moscow.

The ban, however, has also raised eyebrows, with critics saying it could undermine key democratic principles, including freedom of speech.

"Probably, as a rule, we should not fight Russian propaganda with Russian-type of restrictive means," political scientist Sarunas Liekis told AFP.

"At the same I am confident that the state can impose sanctions when laws are regularly breached," he added.

RTR Planeta can be accessed via satellite and cable in Lithuania. While cable providers have vowed to abide by the ban, Lithuania cannot enforce it on satellite providers operating outside its jurisdiction.

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