The Lithuanian authorities informed the Commission in December 2016 that the Russian language channel "RTR Planeta" broadcasting to Lithuania from Sweden was distributing content inciting to hatred. Therefore the Lithuanian authorities have suspended the retransmission of the channel for three months.
Statements made during some programmes on "RTR Planeta" partly related to an ongoing military confrontation involving Russia and contained unambiguous threats of occupation or destruction of other States, including the Baltic States. Consequently tensions within Lithuania, with its history of formerly being part of the Soviet Union, could arise.
The Commission assessed the measures taken by Lithuania on the basis of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), which prohibits hate speech. Lithuania has demonstrated that there have been manifest, serious and grave infringements of the prohibition of incitement to hatred. Therefore the Commission decided that the temporary suspension of the broadcast by Lithuania is proportionate and justified.
This is the second time the Commission has decided on a suspension of the retransmission of "RTR Planeta" on the basis of incitement to hatred. In 2015, the Commission considered that a temporary suspension of three months of the retransmission of RTR Planeta decided by Lithuania in April 2015 was compatible with Union law as well.
Today's decision highlights the importance of the fight against hate speech. To ensure a better protection against hate speech, the Commission proposal for the revision of the AVMSD of 25 May 2016 widens the definition of hate speech by referring to 'incitement to violence or hatred' and including ethnic origin, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as grounds of such prohibited speech. The proposal also foresees a requirement for video-sharing platforms (e.g. YouTube) to take measures to protect citizens from incitement to violence or hatred.