Lithuanian filmmakers fear censorship as conservative MPs propose to evaluate film content

Cinema in Vilnius
Foto: DELFI / Paulius Garkauskas

A group of Lithuanian conservative lawmakers on Monday called on Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and Culture Minister Liana Ruokyte-Jonsson to look at whether the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK) could perform the function of a feature film watchdog.

Some filmmakers describe the system proposed by Laurynas Kasčiūnas, Vytautas Kernagis and Paulius Saudargas as censorship.

The three lawmakers of the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats said that the move comes in response to the spread of propaganda via Russian film production distributed in Lithuania.

"If such a control function were assigned to LRTK, the commission could impose sanctions on cinemas for showing feature films that clearly contain hostile propaganda and disinformation," Kasčiūnas said in a statement.

The watchdog could issue a warning to a cinema, instruct it to take such a film off its screens, or impose a fine, he said.

According to the conservatives, the measure is necessary as Lithuanian cinemas began showing films "distorting historical facts and is misinforming the public".

The parliamentarians propose that films are evaluated according to an article of the Law on Provision of Information to the Public that prohibits publishing information that incites changing the constitutional order of Lithuania by force or instigates attempts against its sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.

The law also prohibits instigation of war and hatred, and discrimination and violence against a group of people.

Arūnas Matelis, head of the Lithuanian Cinematographers' Union, described the proposal as radical and leading to censorship.

"Of course, Russia is trying to influence everything through the media, concerts, films or books, but such a proposal would mean monitoring all films for content," the film director and producer told BNS on Monday.

"No work of art is controlled in such a way based on content in any European country, perhaps except for Russia itself," he added.

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