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U.S. Grants $500K to Baltic States to Fight Russian Propaganda

The U.S. pledged $500,000 to the Baltics in order to combat Russian propaganda. The 12-month project will help train beginning and established Russian-language journalists.

The U.S. embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania, states the program will last until November 30, 2016. In their press statement, the embassy described the full opportunity for the journalists:

The ideal program will cover a 12-month period and include in-country training/workshops in all three countries, cash reporting awards for journalists with realistic investigative reporting project ideas and opportunities to pursue them, and study trips to the United States to visit newsrooms, journalism schools and new models for funding and delivering quality journalism (such as Pro Publica) in the digital age. The successful program should also include a method or methods for connecting alumni of the program and ongoing networking both among the three countries and with U.S. trainers/experts/contacts for project help as well as source and audience development. The program should allow flexibility of focus, needs and activities in each country. Programs that include local partners in any or all of the Baltic countries are also welcome.

In April, the Lithuanian government banned Russian TV station RTR Planeta because it routinely violated the law that “prohibits war propaganda, hatred and inciting discord.” Lithuanian channel TV3 claimed Russian “hackers attacked its website to change a poll asking about Russian propaganda.”

After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, the Baltics expressed fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin will target them next. Russia’s ambassador to Latvia raised eyebrows when he told a radio station Russia will grant citizenship to ethnic Russians in the country. A Russian diplomat told the United Human Rights Council that Moscow is worried about the way Estonia treats ethnic Russians. The Kremlin even reopened criminal cases against Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet Army in 1990-1991.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite is one of the most outspoken critics of Putin. In November, she called Russia a “terrorist state” and urged the European Union to do more to help Ukraine against Russian aggression. Lithuania, formerly controlled by the USSR along with the other Baltic states, provided necessary aid to Ukraine since Russian hostility started in March with the annexation of Crimea. The government sent “tens of thousands of euros in aid to Kiev” and treated “wounded Ukrainian soldiers.”

“Political, humanitarian and military support is needed for this country, these people, who chose the democratic path, who chose to run their country themselves, who decided on the direction for their country. i.e., the European Union, for them to be able to do that without pressure, without military intervention and aggression,” Grybauskaite said, adding:

Lithuania, just like other European countries, realizes that peace must be fought for, peace must be defended, independence and sovereignty are untouchable, every nation has the right to have their own state and nobody can dictate them, be it a small or a big country. Nobody can dictate the way they should live. We must clearly state this to the Kremlin, the Russian leadership that such actions will never be tolerated.

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