On 22 December 2009 the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Law on Amendments to the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information (hereinafter Law on Minors) on the grounds of the proposals put forward by the LR President.
The aim of the adopted amendments was to widen the field of application of the Law on Minors on purpose to encompass all public information and thus to avoid the possible drawbacks in its application.
Besides, the Law was supplemented with a new criterion, according to which particular public information can be determined as harmful to minors. According to the new provision of the law, public information shall be ascribed to the information having negative effect on minors if it exhorts behaviour, humiliating human dignity or minors’ sexual violence and their exploitation thereof as well as minors’ sexual relations. The rest of the criteria were only specified.
According to the Law “exhortation” means purposeful information by which minors are encouraged to undertake particular actions or change habits or views. The present definition allows both the producers of public information and the regulatory authorities to equally approach it while applying the law in practice.
In addition, the Law was supplemented with a new provision, which obligates broadcasters to publish an announcement or otherwise inform viewers about the possible harmful content of further broadcast information before a programme or a part of it is actually broadcast. However, the foreseen exemptions of the amended law justify the broadcasting of harmful information in case such information is needed to be broadcast for public interest, educational or training purposes. The former Law did not provide this provision.
The amended law expanded the functions of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics. The Inspector is obligated to prepare and publish: a) the Guidelines on the application of the criteria, which allow to ascribe the public information to the harmful one and on the restrictions of the dissemination of such information, e.g. use of technical means, watershed hours, indexation of programmes; b) a Summary on activities and judicial practices of applying the present law by various Institutions, responsible for the implementation of the Law on Protection of Minors, i.e. the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania, the Lithuanian Radio and Television Council, the Ethics Commission of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers, Children’s Rights Ombudsman Institution, Ministry of Culture and its own.
Besides that, the Inspector of Journalist Ethics was obliged to provide recommendations for the producers of public information on evaluation of the specific information they intent to broadcast prior to its broadcasting,
It has to be noted, that the mentioned amendments will come into force from 1 March 2010.