Lithuania and Belarus: propaganda war on the eve of elections

A week before the elections in Belarus, Lithuania has escalated its propaganda war against Lukashenko. "The regime" has not left this unanswered: it appeared on Byelorussian Television (a channel broadcast in Lithuania) with facts exposing the Lithuanian methods of supporting the Byelorussian opposition and with a film about Lithuania's dark side.

Experts say that this was a response to Lithuania's opening two radio frequencies for broadcasting to Belarus and to its massive campaign for supporting the Byelorussian opposition and the negation of Lukashenko by Lithuanian media. The latter reacted to this "counter-attack" by a number of articles.

Lietuvos Zinios issues an article "Lithuania As Seen by the Byelorussians - Exhausted Country." After his visit to Belarus the director of the Siauliai administration Genadius Miksis says: "I can't say that the facts are not true, but the film looks at Lithuania with biased eyes, from the bad side. The authors of the film fully ignore everything we have created in the past 15 years, everything we have achieved, and give only the negative. In their eyes, Lithuania is an emigration-ridden country of wild capitalism."

Last week political expert Lauras Belinis appeared on LRT web-site with an article "Propaganda Image of Belarus Stimulates Nostalgia for the Past." He says: "What is going on in Belarus directly concerns our lives - for most eastern Lithuanians can watch Byelorussian TV programs and have relatives in that country. For most of them, especially for old people, who have lived their whole lives in the inert kolkhoz system, democracy with its personal initiative and responsibility is incomprehensible and frightening. And so, the nostalgia for inertia and custody in Belarus may look quite attractive to them." Belinis continues that all this is propaganda: what they show is staged and different from what there is in reality, while the good life statistics are just a PR invention.

XX Amziaus gives one more characteristic "exposure" of Belarus: "Why Is It Dangerous to Live Near Fear-Governed Society." The author Thomas Misiunis exposes the methods of the "propaganda" Belarus TV, noting that it can be seen on every cable TV in Lithuania. Like Belinis, he says that the Byelorussian propaganda is dangerous for Lithuania, but unlike him, he calls for action by the Lithuanian authorities - though not saying what action: the natural answer is to prohibit the Lithuanians from watching such propaganda.

Then what about the democratic right of any citizen of a democratic state to have access to any information? Misiunis also drops the question - if it is natural in democratic states to ask police and authorities for help, to call for force and "ban" and to get hysterical about "national security" and "propaganda war."

One cannot even imagine such calls and such mentality in truly democratic states, in the selfsame EU and NATO. Misiunis does not notice that his own thoughts and words are totalitarian in gist: "Isn't this propaganda and social intimidation in Belarus dangerous for its neighbors? Isn't it dangerous for Lithuania's national security and vital interest to have a common wall with a society who is overwhelmed by fear, who does not know what civil initiative is, who is taught to obey even if the order is illegal and to never question the decisions by a government ruled by unpredictable almighty president."

It seems the answer will not be that easy. Won't it be the same mystified "psychological information security" our authorities should be worried about if they watch BT at least once a week." Some observers say that the very notion "psychological information security" is the legacy of the totalitarian past when "hostile voices" were jammed. How else can "the worried authorities" secure themselves from Belarus if not by banning "the hostile propaganda?" But then Lithuania will have little difference from its criticized Belarus. Some analysts say that such calls for some comfortable "information security" by the authorities are not admissible for a democratic EU and NATO member country - for this means that the authorities distrust their people and fail to understand that government is the people's servant rather than boss, like was the case in the totalitarian times. Free speech and accessible information are the basis of any democracy.

Meanwhile Lithuania media report that the Seym delegation that was to go to Belarus to observe the elections may not get there. MP Rasa Jukniavicene says that the Byelorussian Embassy has not given the MPs visa to date.