Lithuanian Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius has withdrawn his proposal to ban the sale of goods that "distort or belittle the history of Lithuania" following criticism that the move might restrict the freedom of expression.
Virginijus Sinkevičius
© DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

"It is necessary to clarify the draft law in such a way that it does not cause doubts to anyone, is not misinterpreted and does not become a means of distorting the historical truth," the minister said in a comment sent to BNS on Tuesday.

Draft amendments to the Law on Consumer Protection to allow the banning of the retail sale of goods that "distort Lithuania's historical facts (and) belittle Lithuania's history, independence, territorial integrity or constitutional order" passed the first reading in the Seimas in late March.

The minister proposes to remove these provisions from the bill, which is to be discussed by the parliament's Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday.

Likened to Poland's law

A spokesman for Sinkevičius has told BNS that the contentious provisions were included into the bill at the initiative on the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense and in consultation with specialists from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Interior Ministry.

However, critics have warned that the bill, if adopted, might lead to censorship as it would be extremely difficult to assess whether a product falls into the category of goods deemed to be "belittling the history and distorting historical facts".

Some articles in the Israeli and US media have likened the bill to a controversial Polish law that criminalizes acts blaming the state or the Polish for complicity in Nazi war crimes.

The Associated Press has reported that the law would prohibit, among other things, the sale of books on the role of Lithuanian collaborators in the Holocaust, an interpretation firmly rejected by Lithuania's authorities.

Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Congress, on a visit to Vilnius, raised the issue of the bill as he met with Lithuanian government officials on Monday.

Government Vice-Chancellor Deividas Matulionis told BNS that he had assured Baker that the wording of the law was a misunderstanding and would be changed.

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