Popetown broadcaster fined in Lithuania

The Lithuanian TV watchdog has fined the director of MTV Networks Baltic for airing Popetown. Acting on a complaint from the Catholic church in January, members of the Radio and Television Commission voted unanimously to fine Marius Veselis 3000 litas ($1435). Apparently the cartoon portrayed the clergy as destructive and incited religious discrimination.

MTV Lietuva will appeal the decision. A spokesperson said:

We have aired the series in all the three Baltic states, but it caused such a reaction only in Lithuania

Veselis said last month that the case has revealed Lithuania as “sort of half-medieval, half-communist, sick culture”.

“Defamation of religion” becomes UN resolution

On December 18 last year the UN General Assembly adopted a raft of resolutions recommended by its Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural). While many of them were progressive – one called for a moratorium on the death penalty – there was also one long campaigned for by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference: “combating defamation of religions”.

Draft resolution VI on Combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/62/L.35), approved as orally revised by a recorded vote of 95 in favour to 52 against, with 30 abstentions, on 20 November, would have the Assembly express deep concern about the negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief, still in evidence in some regions of the world. The Assembly would emphasize that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations, according to law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others; protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals; and respect for religions and beliefs.

This was adopted with 108 in favour and 51 against:

In favour: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States.

The only religion actually mentioned in the document (PDF download) is Islam, of course. Here’s para 9:

Stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions
and incitement to religious hatred, against Islam and Muslims in particular;

Popetown latest

News reaches us from a reliable source that the Catholic Church in Lithuania plans to sue MTV Lietuva over Popetown.

Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference President Sigitas Tamkevicius told Reuters:

We are going to lodge a complaint in court because we believe that the
rights of the faithful were violated by this mockery

Unfortunately, he did not specify which rights were violated.

The Popetown series is not only an insult to the pope, but to all the
Catholics of Lithuania

he added.

Ema Segal, a spokeswoman for MTV Lietuva, said:

This is just an artistic satire and nothing more. We neither attempted
to mock the religion, nor God himself

Which kind of misses the point. There is nothing wrong with mocking religion (who knows what she means when she says “God himself”?). In fact it is an honourable and necessary activity. Why not admit it, if that’s what you do?