News outlet: TASS
Date: 10 March 2016
Title: МИД РФ после депортации журналистов ВГТРК обвинил Вильнюс в желании ввести цензуру
The false fact or narrative: On 10 March, Russian news agency TASS reported on Lithuania’s deportation of Rosija TV correspondent Pavel Zarubin and his three-member film crew because they wanted to interview Russian citizens “who had participated in the opposition Forum of Free Russia.” The article began with a quote from Russian Foreign Ministry representative Maria Zacharova, who accused Lithuania of introducing total censorship and eliminating dissent. She referred to “many Lithuanian politicians” but did not specifically name anyone. She also criticized the EU for not interfering. See the quotation: “В очередной раз вынуждены констатировать, что литовские власти продолжают линию на введение в стране тотальной цензуры и искоренение любого инакомыслия, о чем говорят и многие литовские политики. К сожалению, вновь полное безразличие к происходящему в этом государстве Евросоюза демонстрирует Брюссель и профильные международные структуры.” [Once again we have to state that Lithuanian authorities are proceeding to introduce total censorship in the country and eliminate any dissent, as many Lithuanian politicians confirm. Unfortunately, once again Brussels and international organizations demonstrate complete indifference to what is happening in this EU member country]
The Truth: On 8–9 March, Vilnius hosted the annual Vilnius Russia Forum, in which Lithuania’s Russian opposition discussed domestic and foreign policy issues, the human rights situation in Russia, prospects for Russia’s economic and political development, and the future of relations between Russia and the West. On 9 March, Rosija TV correspondent Pavel Zarubin and his three-member film crew were detained as they tried to illegally break into the forum. Because of their provocative actions, the four were added to a list of undesirable persons and given 48 hours to leave Lithuania. But the whole incident was provoked by journalists themselves, who attempted to get into the event by deception. Media accreditation for all journalists—both local and foreign—was announced in advance, and none of the four had applied to be accredited. Other Russian media such as 1 Baltiskij Kanal and Novaya Gazeta applied for and received accreditation without any problems.
Technique: Manipulation of facts, false interpretation of facts and context, selective reporting, name-calling and provocation.
Audience: Lithuania’s Russian-speaking population as well as Russian speakers in other Baltic states, Europe and Russia itself.
Analysis: Upon their return to Moscow, the Rosija TV journalists presented their interpretations in the same way as quoted in the TASS article above. They portrayed Lithuania as undemocratic, but they may have come to Lithuania specifically to provoke authorities and slander the country for allegedly introducing media censorship, restricting freedom of speech and using force against journalists. This incident can be considered a provocation against Lithuania and the Russian opposition. The article did not analyze why the four were deported; rather, it creates the impression that the measures taken by Lithuanian authorities were unjustified. Furthermore, it refers to the event as the Forum of Free Russia rather than by its real name, the Vilnius Russia Forum. The article speaks about Russian citizens, but doesn’t mention that it was the Russian opposition that attended the Forum. Russian media outlets gave ample coverage to this incident but did provide any analysis; nor did they make any reference to the Lithuanian media and news agencies which explained the reasons behind the deportation. Rather, such media reports were hostile, full of accusations and lacking evidence.
Here are some articles in the Russian media on this issue: Balticvoice.ru: Выдворяют из Литвы журналистов ВГТРК“ [Rosija TV journalists expelled from Lithuania]; PnP.ru (Парламентская газета): “Клишас: инцидент с журналистами в Литве противоречит стандартам ЕС“ [Incident with journalists contradicts EU standards]; Ria.ru: „СЖР о ситуации с журналистами в Литве: надо прекратить такие атаки“ [The Union of Russian Journalists on the situation in Lithuania: it is necessary to stop such attacks]; Argumenti.Ru: „Союз журналистов РФ потребует от Литвы объяснений после депортации группы ВГТРК“ [The Union of RF journalists demand explanation by Lithuania for the deportation of Rosija journalists); Russian.rt.com: „МИД РФ о депортации журналистов ВГТРК: Литва продолжает линию на введение в стране тотальной цензуры“ [Russian Foreign Ministry on the deportation of Rosija TV journalists: Lithuania proceeds towards total censorship]; Radiovesti.ru: “Агенты КГБ” - самое мягкое, что прозвучало в наш адрес из уст оппозиционеров.“ [“KGB agent” was most polite word that came from the mouth of the opposition); „Спецслужбы Литвы внесли журналистов ВГТРК (“Россия”) в “черный список” [The special service of Lithuania included Rosija journalists on the blacklist].