Saviraiškos laisvė, asmens garbė ir orumas: ar konstitucinga Lietuvos teismų praktika?
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The constitutional right to self-expression, used by societies professing democratic values (Constitution, Article 25), is a highly important feature for forming the political will of the citizenry. A broad, multi-sided public discussion on all issues of public interest is only possible with the existence of an appropriate amount of freedom of information. A strong mechanism for disseminating information that operates between citizens and the parliament is able to generate a sphere for discussion and mutual influence which are essential for indirect democracy. A discussion’s depth, quality and comprehensiveness constitute important factors which determine the correctness of choices made by citizens and politicians. Mainly, it is the free press which fosters communication between political parties and citizens. The role of the “watchdog” is fundamental to revealing the circumstances under which politicians or other public persons make different political and administrative decisions. This is what permits the identification of motives for rulings and the circumstances under which they were approved. Human dignity (Constitution, Article 21) is an especially significant concept. It is fundamental to all human rights—frequently determining a compromise between public and personal interests. Protection of the right to human dignity is the endeavour to defend a person’s existence. Understanding the right to personal dignity provides an opportunity to realise the traits of human nature within society, thereby creating social value. An unfounded depreciation of a person’s social worth, while providing a greater weight to the constitutional right of self-expression, can prove detrimental to the formation of a righteous and harmonious citizenry and a state based upon the law. The practice which has been formed in the courts—public figures’ honour and dignity is being protected to a lesser degree than private individuals’—means that the freedom of self-expressions is often given priority in regards to the honour and dignity of a public person. This is because the freedom of self-expression is obligated to have a strong constitutional substantiation. However, the constitution would be violated by depreciating the honour and dignity of a public person without due cause, as per the indivisible act of law principle, and the right of one person would be raised as being superior to that of another. The media in Lithuania and other countries who actively make use of the freedom of self-expression are becoming ever more dependent on the legal chain of command. Acting in cohort with the Parliament, the Constitutional Court, the Government, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg, the Inspector of Journalist Ethics and the Commission on Journalists and Publishers Ethics, the courts of Lithuania are becoming evermore important in forming the jurisprudence dealing with the problem of implementing the freedom of selfexpression, personal honour, and dignity. Upon implementation of the principles of precedent in court action, as per the doctrine of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the practice by Lithuania’s courts becomes an equal source of rights in ordinary law. The laws passed by the legislature ad hoc come up to the courts to interpret and apply. Effective rulings by the Supreme Court of Lithuania, the Court of Appeals and the district and local courts become those decisions by which all participants in the public discourse—citizens, politicians and the media—end up having to abide by. It also determines how they model their further actions within the public sphere. The purpose of this publication is to identify the practice of Lithuania’s courts in balancing the contradictions between the freedom of self-expression and personal dignity and honour, while also to identify the tests of their passing such rulings. Furthermore, it is to assess whether or not the latest tests of balancing and passing rulings on this subject are in conformance with the practices of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the Convention and the European Court of Human Rights. An analysis will be undertaken in this publication on whether or not Lithuania’s courts, in general, adequately conduct the balancing of the importance between two constitutional rights which are equally worthwhile—the freedom of self-expression and personal honour and dignity. This publication establishes the tests on passing decisions regarding such contradictions. When passing rulings on the contradictions between the freedom of self-expression and the honour and dignity of public figures, do Lithuania’s courts adequately limit their own discretion? Upon broadly revealing the values of the Constitution and the Convention that are in contradiction, do they ad hoc adequately balance them prior to passing a court ruling?
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