A countermeasure for one of Lithuania’s regions against Russian propaganda evaluated

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After noting the slower pace of vaccination in East and South-East Lithuania, talks resurfaced of establishing a special TV broadcaster in Polish and Russian in order counteract Kremlin propaganda lrytas.lt.

During a Žinių Radijas show, member of Seimas Laurynas Kasčiūnas and Visaginas Mayor Erland Galaguz discussed what the vaccination process is actually like in Visaginas right now, what influence propaganda channels have on Lithuania’s citizens and what a new TV channel could resolve.

Clear correlations

Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence (NSGK) chairman Laurynas Kasčiūnas stated that over the span of a decade, the viewership of Russian state television channels in Lithuania fell by two or threefold. Nevertheless, it lingers and continues to exert influence.

“Correlation can be seen where public groups that are more avid viewers of Russian state television, which is fundamentally propagandist, have a completely different outlook on geopolitical processes in the East. V. Putin’s imperialism in Ukraine is justified more often, there is essentially more gravitation towards the Russian world.

Meanwhile, the people who watch Russian state television, but also access other channels of information, the dependency on the Eastern geopolitical space is reduced for them,” L. Kasčiūnas noted.

On the other hand, according to the member of parliament, research shows that people at lower social thresholds are very susceptible to external propaganda coming from the East. According to L. Kasčiūnas, bringing together informational alternatives would be one means of resolving the problem of Kremlin disinformation. However, it would not be a panacea.

According to the Conservatives MP, there is a need to discuss more fundamental solutions – changes in social conditions, greater integration, ensuring welfare standards.

Key differences

Meanwhile, Visaginas Mayor Erland Galaguz noted during the show that more attention should be dedicated to municipalities where Lithuanians or Lithuanian speakers are the minority.

“Sometimes we even hear that “we are going from Visaginas to Lithuania.” Such things shouldn’t be. Our people even feel certain nuances in transportation when they see that transport connections to Western or Southern Lithuania are better, the trains coursing there are of better quality – this has really caught on,” E. Galaguz said.

Meanwhile, according to the mayor, information about the vaccination process reaches Visaginians the same way it does the residents of other municipalities – through the national broadcaster, the municipal or health centres’ websites, as well as social media.

“We have not prepared leaflets, but we have prepared several videos, which we broadcast, inviting the residents to get vaccinated,” the mayor said.

However, E. Galaguz admits that Eastern Lithuanian residents are greatly influenced by Belarusian and Russian television.

“There’s no doubt that these media outlets have vast influence. It is no secret that the smallest percentage of Lithuanian speaking individuals over the age of 65 lives here. They obtain their information through Russian language programming and that, as we know, contains large amounts of controversial information,” the Visaginas mayor conceded.

According to him, locals have sufficient options for accessing Lithuanian television channels and radio stations if they so wanted – “We can’t complain that there are no options, but I think that the residents choose the channels they understand.”

Pace accelerates

The idea to establish a TV channel for South-Eastern Lithuania in Polish and Russian resurfaced after it was noted that some of the region’s municipalities are behind the rest in terms of vaccination pace. However, E. Galaguz states that active efforts to create a positive opinion regarding vaccination, making use of key local figures, have already borne results.

“We have sensed activity and the numbers back it up – more than 30% of those aged 65+ have been vaccinated, we have applications from groups looking to get vaccinated.

We don’t even have AstraZeneca vaccines – we made use of absolutely all doses. This week, we will receive Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – we have established queues, we see that we will use up all the doses within a week,” the mayor said.

According to him, the claim cannot be made that there are no more problems with AstraZeneca at the municipality. He notes that if more doses of this vaccine had been supplied, they might not have been fully used up.

Concurrently, E. Galaguz emphasised that personally, he has not met a single individual who would have said they want the Sputnik vaccine.

“I’ve heard of it from the news media, from the Facebook commenters that such persons exist. But whether it is due to my office or some other reason, I have not met a single individual who would have directly told me ‘I’m going to vaccinate, but only with Sputnik’,” the Visaginas mayor said.

Questions of viewership

When rebroadcasting of Polish television channels was launched in South-Eastern Lithuania, half of residents stated they do not watch them, while some chose Russian channels, a survey performed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications found.

Thus, is such an initiative purposeful? L. Kasčiūnas stated he was surprised that this many people watch these channels – the politician thought that the viewership would be lower.

“However, this initiative is good – I support it, if with reservations. We opened the way to watch Polish television but didn’t create our own national instrument. We tried to diversify the information space by making use of Polish state television.

This is good, but I would like for the state to form its own policies in this respect. I am in favour of us continuing the rebroadcasting because the contract is expiring, extra funding must be sought out to continue it. However, the state must take this up – there must be information diversity and this is a task for our state,” L. Kasčiūnas asserted.

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