The Court upheld an appeal by our client 15min – one of the largest news websites in Lithuania – against a warning issued by the State Consumer Rights Protection Authority (SCRPA) regarding a violation of the Law on Advertising.
The warning was issued on 28 August 2020 for using the name and surname of Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis in advertising the book Kabinetas 339 without consent, in an alleged violation of the Law on Advertising.
The court ruled that the SCRPA exceeded its mandate by ruling on personal non-material damage of a private nature and not on a violation of the interests of the targets of the advertising (consumers or the public).
Court’s decision a victory for freedom of speech and expression
Partner Kęstutis Švirinas, who is representing the client, says: “I consider the court’s decision another important victory for freedom of speech and expression. The court emphasised that the right to receive and impart information plays an essential role in a democratic society, especially where such information is in the public interest. It is dangerous when the dissemination of such information is subject to prohibitions.
Saulius Skvernelis’ privacy could not be violated by stating his name, which was generally known due to the fact that he was the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania at that time.
The statements used in the advertisement where his name was used (“Journalists have launched an investigation into Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis” and “Is Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis a democratic politician?”) raise issues relevant to democracy and its condition. Clearly, such statements can be considered part of public discussion (discourse) and are not about the private life of an individual.”
Furthermore, the Court acknowledged that, given that the advertisement was for a book which was also about Saulius Skvernelis as an official, the indication of his name and surname was directly related to the content of the book which was being advertised. Although advertising also has a commercial aspect, this does not detract from the need to respect freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information.