Fake news has become a great problem in our life. The more so, as 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 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 by Lithuania’s and NATO’s high ranking officials. The speed of spreading the news strikes on as incredible. That is why Lithuanians took the news more than seriously, despite the fact that the government has declared its false nature. The people thought: if it was a false report why then had it 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.
Relatedly, last week the Lithuanian Parliament at least banned all sorts of violence against children, including corporal punishments, psychological, sexual, physical violence, as well as care neglect. This law was really long hoped-for and even belated. If it is adopted earlier, perhaps a small Lithuanian boy named Matas would not have been severely beaten and wouldn’t die 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, 14, 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 Siemas press-release, the Agreement stipulates in detail the status of US troops, civil component, 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.” The more so, this law stipulates that in case of committing a crime the US military wouldn’t be brought to justice in Lithuania. It 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 as reports of child rape by foreign soldiers make Lithuanian society think about the incorrectness of some political decisions and feel defencelessness.
True or fake that news reflects that Lithuanians’ attitude towards foreign troops at home is mixed. Another case of inappropriate behaviour of foreign soldiers added fuel to the fire. In 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 to the law enforcement officers, as well as tried to resist. Police used tasers. According to the data, the punishment for troublemakers will determine 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. Interesting, but it was not wildly covered in media outlets in comparison with similar case of inappropriate behaviour of NATO soldiers who probably raped the girl.
It is quite clear that Lithuanians have been confused by news. One day a citizen sees the news report, believes it, changes his behaviour, discusses it with relatives, and tries to prevent children from getting into trouble and so on. The other day all official sources want to persuade him that the news was a fake. Society wants to believe officials, but seed of doubt is difficult to kill with one word. Especially it is impossible to change one’s mind when 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 at home.
It turns out that false news is more attractive than true report. It is strange that the Lithuanian government pays so much attention to the false news but neglect the true ones.
*Adomas Abromaitis is a Lithuanian expatriate living in the United Kingdom.