Reflecting disinformation from Moscow to Vilnius

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  • Apie Maskvos dezinformacijos srautą į Vilnių  Šį straipsnį taip pat galite skaityti lietuvių kalba
Kremlin-controlled media violates journalistic principles in Lithuania.

Recent coverage of local exercises in a Lithuanian border region by Kremlin-controlled NTV raises serious questions about the network’s professionalism. On 11 April, the Lithuanian Ministry of Internal Affairs held a departmental exercise to test how relevant agencies and institutions would cooperate in an extreme scenario involving hostile, unidentified armed persons crossing the Lithuanian border and attempting to take control of crossing points, police and local institutions in the vicinity.

NTV’s story inaccurately reported the facts. For example, the network began with the false statement that the first cordon—a border crossing point—surrendered to the armed intruders. In fact, the hostile forces failed to take over the cordon. Secondly, NTV demonstrated dubious standards of professional behavior: the TV crew forced itself into administrative buildings without prior arrangements, contrary to normal journalistic practices. Staffers hid their identities and filmed interviews without signs identifying themselves. Third, the NTV crew managed to collect material because an experienced Lithuanian journalist-producer helped them approach local authorities, soldiers and politicians for interviews. The pro-Kremlin, Lithuanian-language website broadcast the story on 3 May.

The NTV crew’s behavior and the Lithuanian journalist’s collaboration with Kremlin propaganda representatives were exposed and discussed by the country’s mainstream media, as well as on social media. That debate emphasized the professional behavior of authorities engaged in the exercise, in that they communicated with the NTV crew only in Lithuanian, the official language—not Russian. They concluded that the journalist’s collaboration with NTV could not be justified by his “journalistic inquisitiveness”—that he only wanted see how the NTV crew works.

In contrast to accepted principles of journalism—accuracy, objectivity and the desire to inform—this case study suggests the NTV team creates reportage that supports the Kremlin narrative: that decisions by the Lithuanian government do not correspond to reality because it unnecessarily conducts exercises to build up its defense capability and social resilience; that Lithuania is a militant country because NATO battalions are deployed there; and that Lithuania is a failed state because the Russian embargo has caused major damage to its agriculture sector. In reality, though, Russia’s market for Lithuanian farm products shriveled as a result of the EU’s anti-Russia sanctions imposed after its annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. 

NTV apparently targeted its report at the Russian public as well as Russian-speaking minorities in Lithuania and other Baltic states. It also shows that NTV is not a news service, but a propaganda tool.