Fakes vs. Truth in Modern Lithuanian Politics

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania
Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. arunasbiz1961/Pixabay.com
27.02.2017
Fake news has become a great problem in our life. Moreover, questionable news and lack of clarity can seriously influence society and bring chaos to the minds of ordinary people.

Last week, a typical event happened in Lithuania. A couple of local Lithuanian media outlets published a news report claiming that German soldiers raped a Lithuanian girl. The Lithuanian officials were quick to say that it was a false report. The incident was described in all popular world news sources and commented on by Lithuanian and NATO's high ranking officials. The speed of news circulation is striking. That is why Lithuanians take news more than seriously, despite the fact that the government has declared its false nature. People thought: if it was a false report, then it had caused a stir on all national and even international levels?

Such wide coverage of false (or not false) news is also understandable because Lithuania really faces the problem of child abuse almost every day.

Last week, the Lithuanian parliament banned all sorts of violence against children, including corporal punishments, psychological, sexual, and physical violence, as well as neglect. This law was really long hoped-for and even belated. If it had been adopted earlier, perhaps a small Lithuanian boy, Matas, would not have been severely beaten and died in January. No doubt, the new law is a great success for our society, and the indicator of existence of democratic values in Lithuania.

At the same time on that particular day, February, 14th, the Seimas adopted another law that diminishes the value of the previous one. The Lithuanian parliament ratified the Defense Cooperation Agreement with the USA. According to the Siemas press-release (http://www.lrs.lt/sip/portal.show?p_r=119&p_k=2&p_t=169440), the agreement stipulates in detail the status of US troops, civil components, and contractors in the Republic of Lithuania, including arrival, departure, access to military infrastructure for military cooperation purposes, taxes, jurisdiction, military mail, recognition of driving licenses, registration of vehicles, and movement." Moreover, this law stipulates that in case of committing a crime, US military cannot be brought to justice in Lithuania. This means that if US soldiers abuse a Lithuanian child, they would remain unpunished in Lithuania.

It is clear that the Lithuanian government is trying to make the foreign troops' deployment more comfortable. But such cases like the report of child rape by foreign soldiers make Lithuanian society think about the incorrectness of some political decisions and feel defenseless. 

Whether or now this news was true or fake, Lithuanians' attitude towards foreign troops at home is still mixed. Another case of inappropriate behavior of foreign soldiers added fuel to the fire. On the night of February 19, the police of the port city of Klaipeda detained five Czech NATO soldiers near the nightclub. As noted, the soldiers refused to obey law enforcement officers, as well as tried to resist. The police used tasers. According to the report, the punishment for troublemakers will be determined by the Czech command. (http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/nusikaltimaiirnelaimes/i-naktini-kluba-neileistas-cekijos-kariu-penketas-susigrume-su-klaipedos-policija-59-757268).

This news report is not questioned by Lithuanian authorities. Interestingly enough, it was not widely covered in media outlets in comparison to the similar case of inappropriate behavior by NATO soldiers who probably raped a girl.

It is quite clear that Lithuanians have been confused by news. One day, a citizen sees the news report, believes it, his behavior is changed, he discusses it with relatives, and tries to prevent children from getting into trouble and so on. The next day, all official sources want to persuade him that the news was fake. Society wants to believe officials, but seeds of doubt are difficult to kill with one word. It is especially impossible to change one's mind when the next day you read another news report of the same nature and it is true. At least nobody said it is false. Facts speak for themselves. People want to be respected in their country. 

It turns out that false news is more attractive than true reports. It is strange that the Lithuanian government pays so much attention to the false news while neglecting the truth.