Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare the re-establishment of its independence on March 11, 1990. Sometimes Russian media refer to this fact, claiming that Lithuania (and the other Baltic States) ‘destroyed the Soviet Union’.
The national diasporas in Lithuania are quite small. Unlike in Latvia and Estonia, Russians (5.8%, or 176 900 people) are not the largest minority group in Lithuania, and are outranked by Poles (6.6%, or 200 300 people). Other national diasporas in Lithuania include Belarusians (1.2%, or 36 200), Ukrainians (0.5%, or 1 400) and Jews (0.1%, or 3 000). Unlike in Latvia or Estonia, almost all Lithuanian residents were given the right to acquire citizenship after the Soviet Union collapsed. Nearly 90% of members of the national diasporas chose to do so.
Lithuania has seen one of the EU’s sharpest population decreases. By 2011, the census indicated that the population had decreased to 3 million from 3.6 million in 1989. The size of the national diasporas has also changed considerably since then. In 1989, the share of ethnic Russians stood at 9.4%, while Poles, Belarusians, Ukrainians and Jews accounted for 7%, 1.7%, 1.2% and 0.3% of the population, respectively.
There are some regions in which ethnic minorities are concentrated. These include the Salcininkai and Vilnius districts with a sizable Polish minority, and the city of Visaginas (Russians).
The main challenges confronting Lithuania in the field of information security are:
- The Kremlin’s disinformation and information influence campaigns. Russia is trying to spread its propaganda narratives in Lithuanian information space.
- Cyberattacks can be used with intent to destroy information channels (e.g. via DDoS attacks), or to intervene in information systems and the activity of trolls. In April 2017, a cyberattack used for the purpose of spreading fake news in Lithuania was detected.
Furthermore, experts point to a number of domestic challenges to Lithuania’s information security:
- Unsustainable media landscape. Most media channels are dependent on some groups of interests or business within Lithuania’s small media market. This could negatively affect professional standards of mass media.
- Insufficient media literacy among Lithuanian society.
- The Lithuanian authorities’ insufficient attention to the problems facing national minorities.
On the one hand, Lithuanian society is well aware of the Kremlin propaganda and disinformation activities.
As one of the experts interviewed in the framework of this research said:
‘We are rather sensitive to the threats due to understanding of our geopolitical situation. This understanding was much lower before the Ukrainian events’.
On the other hand, there are some groups in Lithuanian society which are more vulnerable to Kremlin-led narratives and disinformation than the population on average. In the first place, these are Russian and Polish-speaking national minorities, especially those who live in a Kremlin-backed information bubble, i.e. who regularly follow pro-Kremlin media.
The Kremlin tries to attack Lithuanian society in general and by using different kinds of narratives which could affect different parts of society.
Another expert interviewed said:
‘One of the common narratives of Kremlin propaganda against Lithuania is that ‘our things go bad’, ‘all people leave Lithuania’, and everything develops in wrong direction’.,
Sometimes Russian media presents Lithuania as a ‘failed state’ or as a country which lost independence to an occupying NATO and EU influence. Some information attacks against Lithuania can be largely viewed in the context of information attacks against the ‘Western world decay’ and the discrediting of its values. Noteworthy, identical narratives are used by Lithuanian nationalists (Tautininkai). They align themselves with the Kremlin’s anti-gay and anti-same sex marriages policies, as well as with the Kremlin’s ‘wrong European values’ narrative.
Attack against BNS
On April 12, 2017, unknown computers hacked the systems of the main Lithuanian information agency in the Baltic region, the BNS (Baltic News Service). The cyberattack published fake news in the system saying that ‘American soldiers were poisoned by sulphur (or as it is commonly known mustard gas), the gas used in the production of chemical weapons in Latvia’. This cyberattack was technically successful, but the fake news stories were identified and removed from BNS on the day of publication.
The possible aim of this action was to damage NATO’s image in the Baltic States by showing that NATO uses mustard gas. This propaganda narrative could also be used later in a different context, for example to help Moscow support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who used the mustard gas against the Syrian people. This fake news was supposed to back the Russian narrative that it was U.S. who conducted the chemical attack, not Assad..
In Lithuania, no political parties which openly support narratives of Kremlin-backed propaganda operate. As the only exception, the Socialist People’s Front (former leader Algirdas Paleckis) can be mentioned, but it received just 1.21% of votes in the 2012 parliamentary election.
Kremlin propaganda often attacks Lithuania’s version of history. The USSR’s occupation of the Baltic States in 1940 is rebutted, claiming instead that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia voluntarily joined the ‘big Soviet family’. Furthermore, Kremlin propaganda often calls members of the Lithuanian resistance movement ‘fascists’ or ‘Nazis’.
As suggested by another interviewed expert:
‘The main point is discourse on the Second World War. Kremlin propaganda uses many different topics in this regard – from resistance movements in the Baltic States and Ukraine to the role of Stalin in ‘The Great Victory’. It is Soviet-style propaganda when everything was clear: Hitler was an ‘absolute evil’ and the Soviet Union along with the Allies upset him. If you try to analyse the mentioned historical events deeply, it is actually a rewriting of history’.
Some of the interviewed experts draw attention to the fact that Kremlin-supported propaganda often uses Soviet nostalgia in its communication as a tool of soft power. Public opinion research commissioned by the Eastern Europe Studies Centre in the summer of 2016 showed that today in Lithuania only 26% of respondents agree that life in the Soviet Union was better than it is now. On the other hand, the research showed that Soviet nostalgia is often felt by representatives of the 46+ age group, and especially by pensioners. Among the latter group, 45.8% agree that life in the Soviet Union was better.
As one of interviewed Lithuanian chief editors stated boldly:
‘If we talk about 50-60 years old people and the situation where they live in the Russian information sphere, we can do nothing. They are lost’.
Among the Russian national minority, 62.2% miss the Soviet times.
. It should be mentioned that the target group for Russian TV in Lithuania is not only national minorities.
One communication specialist said:
‘Russian television is watched not only by Russian-speaking or Polish-speaking people. Some ethnic Lithuanians who like Russian TV due to its attractive entertainment content also watch it’.
Indeed, Lithuanian commercial TV channels also transmit Russian media products, although they do not necessarily contain any disinformation or propaganda narratives. For example, Russian media products occupied 35.5% of airtime per week on BTV and more than 7% at TV6 in March 2017.
Therefore, the following groups can be viewed as more vulnerable to Kremlin propaganda and disinformation than the population on average:
- Members of national diasporas, Russian and Polish-speaking people
- Citizens with far-right political views
- Older people, aged 46+ and especially pensioners (60+)
- People who watch only Russian TV.
Some experts believe that Russia does not have a specific media strategy for Lithuania. A media expert interviewed for this study said:
‘Although we often say that the Kremlin spreads propaganda against Lithuania, in fact, a very small number of [propaganda] ‘products’ are designed especially for Lithuania. The Kremlin often spreads propaganda in general against the Baltic States or the EU’.
Nevertheless, there are some specific ‘Lithuanian narratives’ in Russian propaganda, such as the accusation that, on January 13, 1991, peaceful civilians near the TV and Radio centre in Vilnius were killed or injured not by Soviet soldiers, but by unknown snipers connected to the Lithuanian movement for independence; or that Vilnius and Klaipeda should not belong to Lithuania because Moscow unjustifiably ‘gave these cities’ to Lithuania (Vilnius before the Second World War and Klaipeda afterwards).
Lithuania is a democratic country with a high level of media freedom. In 2017, the World Press Freedom Index placed Lithuania 36th (35th in 2016) out of 180 countries. Reporters Without Borders reports that ‘the media in Lithuania are reputedly independent and free to criticise the government, but not always the big business interests’.
An expert interviewed for this study agreed:
‘The traditional mechanisms of media financing and self-financing were destroyed by digitisation’.
There are some laws regulating Lithuanian media space. For example, the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public and the Law on National Radio and Television. The principles of freedom of speech and media freedom are also enshrined in Articles 25 and 44 of The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania. As stated in Article 25, ‘the freedom to express convictions, as well as to receive and impart information, may not be limited otherwise than by law when this is necessary to protect human health, honour or dignity, private life, or morals, or to defend the constitutional order’. It’s also mentioned in Article 44 that ‘censorship of mass information shall be prohibited’.
Media in Lithuania also has tools of self-regulation. An example of this is the Commission of Ethics in the Provision of Information to the Public. Commission members are representatives of different journalism and media associations, including the Lithuanian Radio and Television Association, the Association of Regional Television, the Lithuanian Journalists Union, and so on. The functions of The Commission are laid down in the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public:
- Take care of fostering the ethics of producers and disseminators of public information.
- Examine violations of professional ethics by producers or disseminators of public information when providing information to the public.
- Examine complaints with regard to activities of producers and disseminators of public information who have allegedly infringed the provisions of the Code, and examine disputes between producers and disseminators of public information regarding violations of the Code.
- Ensure the development of mass literacy in cooperation with state agencies and institutions, dissemination of the principles of critical assessment and analysis of information.
- Organise events in regard to issues related to professional ethics in the field of the provision of information to the public, and participate in the implementation of strategic planning programmes and action plans of state institutions (Article 46).
The Commission cannot fine media, but outlets which fail to follow ethical standards (as ruled by the Commission) may not get any funding or support from the state.
The Lithuanian government also established The Office of the Inspector of Journalism Ethics. The mission of the Office is ‘to ensure that public information is respectful of human rights and freedoms, to develop the civil society and critical approach to the public information processes, to raise public legal awareness and the awareness of human rights, to foster sustainable relationship between the public information producers and disseminators and the general public and to promote the public information producers’ and disseminators’ responsibility’.
The main goals of the Office are to examine complaints (applications) from individuals and violations of regulatory laws governing the provision of information to the public, to monitor and analyse public information, to provide expertise in public information, to cooperate with other institutions, and to undertake public education, consulting, and drafting provisions of proposals for laws and other legal acts.
The main document of media self-regulation is The Codex of the Ethics of Provision of Information to the Public of Lithuania (known as the The Codex of Ethics of Lithuanian Journalists and Publishers until 2016). It regulates the standards of journalists’ professional work.
The media market in Lithuania is quite small. Statistics show that TV remains the most popular media segment. There are four major media groups in the Lithuanian television market. The two leaders are commercial giants LNK group (channels: LNK, BTV, TV 1, Info TV and Liuks!) with 27.4% of the market share, and MTG group (TV 3, TV 6 and TV 8) with 20.9% of the market share. The third position is taken by the Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT group (LRT Televizija and LRT Kultura) with 9.8% of the market share.
Special attention should be paid to the BMA group, which holds the fourth position. It broadcasts channels related to Russian state media (or are under indirect Russian state control) which is adjusted for the Lithuanian audience. Their three channels are NTV Mir Lietuva (2.5% market share), PBK (Pervyj Baltijskij Kanal, 2.3%) and REN Lietuva (1.1%). This gives BMA a total market share of 5.9%. In fact, these channels are the main TV providers of narratives of the Kremlin’s propaganda.
There are no such popular broadcasters of pro-Kremlin narratives in other segments of the media market. The radio market is quite depoliticised. There are also two local commercial radio stations for national minorities, RUSRADIO LT (for the Russian-speaking minority) with 10.5% of the market share, and Znad Wilii (2% of). However, no cases of deliberate disinformation by these stations have been reported.
In fact, there are just a few media outlets which the State Security Department of Lithuania marked in a 2014 public report as ‘tools of Russia’s information and ideological influence’. These are TV channel PBK and local weekly newspapers in the Russian language, namely Ekspress nedelia (4.2% market share), Obzor (2.2% market share) and Litovskij kurjer (no data).
There are some Internet sources which also try to provide Russian propaganda narratives to the Lithuanian audience. In 2017, the State Security Department of Lithuania and Second Department of Lithuanian Ministry of Defence published a joint report naming Internet media Baltnews.lt and Sputniknews.lt in this respect. Both sources are connected to the Russian state information agency Rossiya Segodnia.
Baltnews.lt tries to hide its connection to Russia in order to be seen as ‘independent media’. However, it is not popular in Lithuania. In August 2017, Baltnews.lt had only about 700 daily readers from Lithuania. The State Security Department of Lithuania evaluates its influence as ‘not significant’.
Sputniknews.lt is also unpopular. The report rightly stated that Sputnik, in Lithuanian and Russian, ‘has not many readers yet, its account on the Facebook social network is not popular either’. In August 2017, it had approximately 900 daily readers (Gemius data). As of October 20, 2017, its account on Facebook had 660 likes.
The experts agree that local media outlets which provide Kremlin propaganda reach quite a small percentage of Lithuanian society. In fact, this media category could be referred to as ‘marginal’ in Lithuanian markets, but it could have a big influence in some information bubbles or among some local communities (mostly Russians and Poles).
One expert interviewed for this study said:
‘We see that the audience of local pro-Kremlin media is quite small and that’s kind of a reason to not worry about it. But we should always look at the dynamics of processes. The elements of information warfare are spread via different channels. To look at traditional media only would be a mistake’.
The experts’ concerns are that, under some circumstances, the popularity of such ‘information sources’ could grow. This could be dependent on growing Kremlin interest in influencing the Lithuanian information space, which could spark new investment in propaganda outlets in Lithuania.
Lithuania does not have special legislation in the field of information security. However, interviewed experts generally believe that the existing legal environment is adequate for protecting Lithuania’s information sphere from potential threats.
Nevertheless, the country doesn’t have a special strategy for information security. This topic is mentioned in different official documents, such as the revised National Security Strategy and the renewed Military Strategy of the Republic of Lithuania.
The National Security Strategy gives a list of information threats, including ‘military propaganda spread by certain states and non-state players, warmongering, incitements of hatred, attempts to distort history as well as other unsubstantiated and misleading information directed against the national security interests of the Republic of Lithuania which leads to the distrust of and dissatisfaction with the State of Lithuania and its institutions, democracy, national defence, seeks to widen national and cultural divides and to weaken national identity and active citizenship, attempts to discredit Lithuania’s membership of NATO, NATO capabilities, and the commitment to defend its Allies, to undermine citizens’ will to defend their state… information activities that are aimed at influencing the country’s democratic or electoral processes or the party system, or that are targeted at the societies and policy makers of other Member States of the EU and NATO, seeking unfavourable decisions for the Republic of Lithuania’.
Informational attacks are mentioned among other conventional threats in the Military Strategy, which states: Russia and some other states and non-state players have been aggressively disseminating unfounded and misleading information with the aim of shaping Lithuanian public opinion on national security. Such attacks are used to generate distrust and discontent with the democratic order and the national defence system, to discredit the Alliance, its capabilities and commitments to defend the Allies, as well as to weaken the unity among citizens, undermine their patriotism, and their will to defend the country. The spread of information and communications technologies is likely to cause even more information attacks, especially those directed towards specific target groups, in the future’.
The Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania can order channels to be blocked temporarily to stop the spread of propaganda narratives. Such sanctions have been imposed on a number of Russian channels on commercial cable networks. The Commission made every decision after an investigation. The transmission of a channel can be blocked if its content breaks (in the opinion of the Commission) Lithuanian law. The Law on the Provision of Information to the Public under which the Commission functions allows it to block media which spreads war propaganda, instigates war or hatred, ridicule, humiliation, instigates discrimination, violence, physical violent treatment of a group of people or a person belonging on grounds of age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, race, nationality, citizenship, language, origin, social status, belief, convictions, views or religion’. The decision about temporarily blocking a channel is made through the courts following application by the Commission.
In 2013, sanctions were first implemented in relation to the PBK TV channel. The Commission ruled that, for three months, this channel could not broadcast on Lithuanian territory any media products made in countries that had not signed up to the Television Without Frontiers Convention. It should be mentioned that Russia did not sign up to this Convention.
In 2014, transmission of RTR-Planeta and NTV Mir Lietuva was restricted for three months. RTR-Planeta’s transmission was repeatedly blocked for three months at a time in 2015 and 2016. Finally, in 2017, yet another Russian channel, TVCI, was blocked twice, once for a month and later for six months.
According to the interviewed experts, the issue of information security does not only belong in the area of national law. Moscow uses ‘information offshores’ to extend its information influence. For instance, the PBK channel is registered in Latvia, not Russia. In this situation, national legislation is not helpful in protecting a country’s information space. For this reason, the problem of information security should be addressed in EU legislation as well.
Mantas Martisius, Deputy Chief of The Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania, argues that an understanding the threat of propaganda has finally spread across a united Europe:
‘For example, some years ago colleagues from Great Britain or Sweden did not understand our fears. Now they do’.
Similar views are shared by Skirmantas Malinauskas, an advisor of the Lithuanian prime minister:
‘Lithuania is one of the first states which began to form practice about how to react to propaganda but, in fact, we need European level regulation of the mentioned sphere’.
Experts also warn that decisions on banning and restricting propaganda should be implemented very carefully. Every decision should be based on sound justification because such practice could violate the democratic principles related to freedom of the speech and expression.
As one communication expert warned:
‘I’m not a fan of interdictions. We should use them very carefully. In the fight against propaganda there always is a danger of violating the freedom of speech or restricting the possibility of thinking differently’.
In short, Lithuania is quite active in using its national legislation to restrict Russian disinformation. It is wrong to talk about a national sphere of information as something localised. It is evident in the case of Lithuania that the loopholes used by the Kremlin media can be closed only if the issues are addressed at EU level.
The resistance to propaganda’s influence is one of the priorities of Lithuania’s political agenda. President Dalia Grybauskaite mentioned this in her interview with ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine,
‘After Crimea, the investment in propaganda and information warfare was massively increased by the Kremlin. We are already in a non-conventional war because of the [constant] cyberattacks, TV propaganda, and information attacks from Russia. We see this all the time. They try to invest in some politicians. They plant fake news stories’.
As mentioned, some problems are connected to the fact that Lithuania doesn’t have a separate strategy for how react to information threats. Experts think that it is not enough to just name challenges in such documents as the National Security Strategy or the Military Strategy of the Republic of Lithuania. They contend that this will not improve the effective institutional framework.
The problem is a general lack of long-term view.
Evaldas Labanauskas, chief editor of the Internet edition of one of the oldest Lithuanian newspapers, Lietuvos zinios’, said:
‘I don’t see any clear strategy, especially if we are talking about long-term strategy. Only ad hoc reactions’.
According to Lina Kojalas, speaking during an in-depth interview with the Eastern European Studies Centre on July 20, 2017, the strategy is ‘under construction’ and the biggest problem is that ‘we still don’t know exactly what our ultimate purpose is’.
The experts also mentioned that different governmental institutions work to increase the level of resilience towards threats of propaganda and information warfare, but that efforts are not strongly coordinated between them.
One expert noted:
‘We still have a lack of integrity, lack of clear priorities, lack of pursuance of the main purpose’.
The governmental institutions clearly see threats of possible communication influence to Lithuania’s society from the Kremlin.
Tomas Ceponis, a representative of the Lithuanian military’s department of strategic communication, said”
‘If we lose the information war today, tomorrow we may be fighting with weapons’.
Raimundas Karoblis, Lithuania’s defence minister, added: ‘Russia is a threat’.
In fact, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania has a Department of Strategical Communication and Strategic a Communication Group, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania has a Department of Policy of the Provision of Information to the Public, the Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Lithuania has the Department of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs, and the Lithuanian Armed Forces has the Department of Strategic Communications. All these work separately. The experts think that the current situation is not a rational response to the threat.
Some of the mentioned departments have interesting initiatives. For example, the Strategic Communication Group of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a Twitter account. The messages from the account are in English, and mostly aim to challenge the Kremlin’s disinformation.
The existence of these institutions shows that Lithuanian government units have the strategic and creative potential to find answers to the challenge of the influence of Kremlin-backed propaganda, and a well-coordinated institutional framework could inspire such actions.
Digital debunking teams
The first fact-checking initiatives emerged in Lithuania a few years ago. The news portal 15min.lt runs a fact-checking initiative named ‘Patikrinta 15min’ (‘Checked by 15min’). This initiative was launched in 2016 by a journalist Liepa Zelniene. This media outlet also established its own Department of Investigations in 2015. At 15min.lt, fact-checking staff and investigative journalists unmasked not only lies of Lithuanian politicians but also identified Kremlin disinformation. In August 2016, 15min.lt and the International Digital Communication Network organised a conference in Vilnius called ‘Truth Matters’, focusing on fact checking.
There are some other similar initiatives in Lithuania. For example, in the summer of 2017 the biggest news portal Delfi.lt announced that it is going to create a tool against ‘false news’ in cooperation with Google (in the framework of the ‘Digital News Initiative’). However, this tool is still under construction. Since 2016, Delfi.lt has also allowed readers to inform journalists of unusual information they see in the public sphere, via Demaskuok.lt’. Journalists investigate these reports, then write about them if fake news is uncoveredSuch articles are marked by the word ‘demaskuota’ (‘unmasked’).
These examples show that the initiative of fact-checking in Lithuania is in the hands of journalists.
A representative of Lithuania’s Journalists Union interviewed for this study said:
‘Our media are pro-active. They try to analyse how propaganda works, carry out special projects against fake news and explain where the fake news came from’.
But, in general, fact-checking activities are still quite new in Lithuania. Only a few media groups have enough resources to attempt the development of fact-checking as a separate genre of journalism.
In the summer of 2017, NATO shared a short video on its social media accounts about anti-Soviet resistance in the Baltic States after the end of the Second World War. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted hysterically to the movie and published information about the ‘Forest Brothers Crimes’ from 1947, based on reports of the Interior Affairs Ministry of the USSR. RF Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova branded Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Forest Brothers ‘Fascists’ and ‘Nazis’, and accused them of killing peaceful civilians.
Flash mob against propaganda
The well-known Lithuanian journalist Andrius Tapinas, engaged users of Lithuanian segments of the Internet with an online flashmob. The participants were supposed to leave comments with the hashtag #KremliauMūsųIstorijosNeperrašysi (#KremlinYouWillNotRewriteOurHistory) on the Facebook page of the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, Lithuanian users were invited to rate the Facebook page of the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs with one star to make its ranking lower. This event was joined by thousands of Lithuanian Internet users. The Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to remove the option to recover the rating of its Facebook page.
Media literacy projects
Media literacy is a hot topic in Lithuania. The sphere of ‘media literacy and critical thinking’ was mentioned as a priority in a government programme. The basis of the national strategy ‘Lithuania 2030’ is societal input and ideas for success, contributed by communities, non-governmental organisations and proactive citizens. This strategy aims ‘to introduce media literacy programmes in all education institutions’.
Neringa Jurciukonyte, director of the National Institute of Social Integration and coordinator of the journalists education programme ‘Media 4 Change’, said:
‘Consistent activities should be carried out in order to cultivate critical thinking, starting from nursery schools. Some methods allow doing this in the form of games’.
In 2014 to 2015, the biggest project connected to media literacy was conducted by the Education Development Centre in affiliation with the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania. The project was also realised with the support of Nordic Council of Ministers Office in Lithuania. The aim of the project was to create centralised national media literacy projects and initiatives in order to integrate elements of media literacy into regular subjects in the primary school system.
In 2016 to 2017, the National Institute of Social Integration developed special critical thinking and media literacy programmes. Organisers said: ‘The programmes ran for one year and brought together 90 students from 45 schools across Lithuania. The programmes consisted of two periods of five-day training and then the much anticipated ‘Critical Thinking Festival’’.
Other 2016 activities directly or indirectly related to media literacy included a national education project ‘Learning from Film’, a gaming culture festival ‘GameOn’ and the national research project ‘News Literacy Education: How to Understand Media (NEWSLIT)’.
Recently, the Education Development Centre announced a number of new media literacy programmes such as the educational programme for primary schools ‘Media (s)kills’ and the initiative ‘Specifics of Multimedia Journalism, Ethics and Tendencies’, in partnership with NGO ‘Dokumedia’ and 12 primary schools.
Interviewed experts say the development of media literacy should be aimed at youths because it will make the biggest impact. An expert stated in a recent interview:
‘We should teach pupils at school that, in order to get information, they should use at least two, better three sources’.
By some experts are of the opinion that a system of warnings, aimed at older people, would be better than educational programmes. One solution could be to mark the content of Russian television programmes on Lithuanian cable networks as untrustworthy. An expert from Freedom House stated:
‘Adults should also get the knowledge on how to find alternative sources of information’.
The issues of foreign propaganda are discussed in the Lithuanian public sphere rather often, including by experts. Some recent examples include a conference at the Lithuanian National Library (‘Literacy in the Digital Age’), a discussion at the Energy and Technology Museum (‘How to transcribe the Soviet Lithuania chronicles?’), and the series of public discussions at Vilnius University about ‘elements of propaganda in animation’, organised by the Students Scientific Fellowship under the authority of the university’s Communications Department. The organisers of such discussions, which contribute to raising media conscience in Lithuanian society, are various NGOs, think tanks and public sector institutions (for example, libraries and museums).
Conclusions and recommendations
Understanding of the threat posed by propaganda is quite high in Lithuania. But the country’s media protection system is inadequate and potentially vulnerable. On the state level, information security is high priority. At the same time, cooperation between the different state agencies and institutions in this sphere is quite low. Below are recommendations focused on increasing national resilience to foreign disinformation, based on analysis and interviews with experts:
- To create a National Strategy of Information Security, with clear steps about how to improve information safety in Lithuanian society. This should be separate from The National Security Strategy and The Military Strategy of the Republic of Lithuania.
- To intensify coordination between the different institutions in the area of information security through regular meetings of its heads and/or representatives.
- To develop Lithuania’s media quality by organising courses and extra studies for professional journalists, aimed at improving their knowledge and establishing a ‘Quality Media Rescue Fund’ in support of professional media in difficult financial situations.
- To integrate the subject of media literacy into the curriculum of years 9 to 12 at schools.
- To mark Russian-backed television channels that are directly or indirectly connected to the Kremlin and broadcast on the Lithuanian cable network as untrustworthy sources of information to warn viewers. This could be done by showing a special warning in the corner of the TV screen.
- To develop social dialogue and further integrate national minorities into society. The message that national minorities are an important part of society should be improved in the public speeches of political leaders and in media discourse.
- To coordinate activities in the area of information security with other Baltic States (primarily Latvia and Estonia). It would be important to establish a joint coordination centre with expert representatives from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.