International sanctions against Belarus imposed by Lithuania and the rest of the EU have caused an influx of false and misleading content throughout the month of December. Moreover,misleading information concerning Lithuania appeared in the context of approval of new government and its four-year programme. Debunk EU analysis has shown that Lithuania was mostly presented as “failed state”, having incompetent and unprofessional government that is incapable of conducting rational policy and constantly harming Lithuanian society.
Throughout December 1-31st 2020, Debunk EU detected 348 articles that were identified as disinformation related to Lithuania. Compared to previous period, this constituted approx. 29.1% decrease in total amount of cases observed throughout the month.
In addition to a decrease in mis/disinformation by mentions, analysis has also shown the reduction in potential reach of false and misleading content. According to Debunk EU data, misleading information spread by pro-Kremlin and non-systemic Lithuanian language media in December potentially reached around 63 million contacts, which is more than 2 times less than in previous period.
Moreover, analysis showed that misleading information commonly seeks to represent Lithuania as “failed state”. Furthermore, the country was often portrayed as:
Conducting irrational foreign policy,
Country maintaining anti-Belarusian and anti-Russian policy,
Rewriting history of WWII,
Dependent on Belarus,
Having incompetent government,
Violating human rights.
Issues related to economic relations with neighbour countries of Lithuania this month tended to dominate the negative information flow, largely resulting from the increased media coverage of sanctions under consideration towards potash fertilizers producer “Belaruskali” and sanctions against “Belorus” sanatorium in Lithuania.
Moreover, disinformation flow was triggered by the change of government in Lithuania and approval of four-year programme of new government. Detected cases focused on this topic strived to undermine members of the new government as well as increase dissatisfaction with Lithuanian foreign and domestic policies, and governmental decisions in society.
The court’s ruling on January 13th case against Russian citizens who were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their involvement in the Soviet aggression on 13 January 1991 in Vilnius were actively reflected in pro-Kremlin media. Worth to mention that growth of disinformation activated after Russia‘s Investigative Committee brought charges against Lithuanian judges in the case of January 13th. As a result, disinformation articles about this January 13th accused Lithuania of pushing false charges, calling them political and anti-Russian.
Analysis disclosed that disinformation flow in three pro-Kremlin media outlets – sputniknews.ru, baltnews.lt, and rubaltic.ru - constituted more than three quarters (76.4%) of the detected cases.
Analysis showed that the tendency to present misleading information in Russian language (91.6% of all detected cases) prevails which indicates that disinformation concerning Lithuania is mainly directed to Russian speaking audience.