The society’s right to know about crimes is protected

2023 - 11 - 20

COBALT successfully represented a client 15min in a case against a former officer convicted of abuse of office. The public’s interest to know and the media’s right to disseminate information were established by the Supreme Court of Lithuania, which rejected the former policeman’s request to delete data about him from previously published articles in the news website 15min.

The conflict between the two parties arose when the former official demanded that the editors of 15min depersonalise his data and remove photos from the articles that described his crimes and the related criminal court proceedings. According to the plaintiff, such information about him “disproportionately restricts his right to private life”, humiliates his honour and dignity.

The editorial staff of 15min rejected this demand as unfounded, defending the public’s right to know about a person who has committed a crime against the state and to keep legal archival data.

The Supreme Court of Lithuania (SCL) confirmed the position of 15min that the publication of information about the crime and the convicted person’s image “corresponds to the public’s right to know about the crime and the person who has committed it”.

In this case the SCL, for the first time in the history of Lithuania, formulated rules for the protection of digital media archives and established important principles on how to combine the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to be forgotten.

As Marius Inta, the lawyer who represented 15min, stated: “In this case, the courts quite rightly decided that the person who had demanded the depersonalisation of the publications did not prove that the legal publications about him published almost 10 years ago basically limit his right to private life, so his claim in court was not justified.”

In the opinion of the editorial staff of 15min, this is a historic court decision that essentially strengthens the freedom of the Lithuanian media.

The decision of the SCL is final and non-appealable. Before that, favourable decisions were taken by the Vilnius district court.

15min is one of the largest news websites in Lithuania. The company started its activities on August 7, 2008. The main purpose is to provide readers with “live” news.

In this case, the client 15min was represented by COBALT Partner Marius Inta and Senior Associate Rūta Andriulevičiūtė.

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