Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1223
Title: LITHUANIAN DAILY ATTACKS OPEN SOCIETY FUND, CIVIL SOCIETY

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS12232005-11-18 15:30:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 001223 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SECSTATE FOR EUR/NB, EUR/PPD, INR/EUC, AND EUR/OHI 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON KPAO KNAR LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN DAILY ATTACKS OPEN SOCIETY FUND, CIVIL SOCIETY 
 
REF(s): 
 
(A) FBIS EUP20051117070001 Vilnius ELTA 
(B) FBIS EUP20051111341002 Riga Latvijas Avize 
(C) FBIS EUP20051117070003 Vilnius Respublika 
(D) VILNIUS 1029 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - NOT FOR INTERNET OR OTHER PUBLICATION 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
¶1. (SBU) A weeklong, continuing series of articles in Lithuania's 
second leading daily "Respublika" has attacked several Western- 
oriented NGO leaders whose organizations have received funding 
from George Soros's Open Society Fund (OSF).  The attacks impugn 
the intentions of the NGOs and tar western-oriented politicians, 
including President Valdas Adamkus, as somehow influenced by 
foreign funding to act against Lithuanian national interests.  We 
understand that similar articles have appeared in the Ukraine and 
other parts of the former Soviet Union.  Civil society leaders 
targeted by Respublika claim the series is a classical KGB-style 
smear campaign meant to instigate trouble and make Lithuanians 
look foolish.  Respublika Group's managing editor Vitas Tomkus 
also advances his domestic political agenda through the articles, 
as most of those attacked are supporters of the parliamentary 
opposition or Adamkus.  The Embassy has and will continue to 
buttress NGOs, which play an important role in mobilizing public 
participation in Lithuania's still-young democracy.  End Summary. 
 
A BIG LIE REPEATED 
------------------ 
 
2.(SBU) Respublika group papers and their recently purchase wire 
service ELTA began the campaign on November 10.  Their  continuing 
daily front-page stories seek to discredit the philanthropic 
activities of George Soros's fund in Lithuania (Refs A-C).  The 
articles state that Soros wishes to undermine political stability 
here by funding civil society organizations and think tanks.  The 
articles link OSF Lithuania with the Lithuanian President, think 
tank directors, Transparency International, and academic leaders 
in an apparent effort to discredit them.  The November 10 article 
accuses Soros of undermining the impeached former President of 
Lithuania, Rolandas Paksas, and of funding the Orange and Rose 
revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.  Later articles indicate that 
Russian intelligence services know Soros works for the CIA and 
claim  that the USG may support these efforts to undermine 
"stability" in the region.  (We understand that similar anti-Soros 
articles have appeared recently in the Ukraine and other parts of 
the former Soviet Union.) 
 
¶3. (SBU) The Respublika media group published the articles at a 
time when Soros funding of OSF-Lithuania (a locally registered and 
administered non-governmental institution) has largely ended, 
prompting questions about the timing.  The first article 
interviewed Latvia's former PM (and current MP) Emsis, who notes 
the criticism Soros faced in Latvia.  (Lithuanian media and 
politicians have rarely criticized Soros activities in Lithuania.) 
OSF-Lithuania is associated with people welland favorably known to 
the Embassy: Darius Kuolys (Director, Civil Society Institute), 
Rytis Juozapavicius (Director of Transparency International 
Lithuania), Virgis Valentinavicius (OSF Lithuania board chairman, 
and former ELTA head), Tomkus rival Rimvydas Valatka (Lietuvos 
Rytas Deputy Senior Editor), Romas Sakadolskis (Voice of America 
associate), Egidijus Aleksandravicius (Professor of History), and 
Leonidas Donskis (Professor of Philosophy). 
 
¶4. (SBU) Respublika also noted the ties of President Adamkus's 
candidate for Prosecutor General Algimantas Valantinas to OSF- 
Lithuania.  Parliament confirmed Valantinas on November 17 by a 
large margin. Only the Liberal Democrats fraction failed to 
support him. 
 
5.(SBU) Respublika achieved international infamy for publishing a 
series of anti-Semitic and homophobic articles in March 2004, just 
before Lithuania entered NATO and the European Union.  Vytas 
Tomkus runs Respublika as owner and managing editor and is largely 
responsible for the newspaper's extreme views.  Respublika was 
founded in 1988.  Today, the paper controls a media empire that 
enjoys a presence in many of the country's biggest markets.  These 
publications share content and hew to the same ideological line. 
Respublika Publications Group dailies include: 
 
    -"Respublika" - Circ. 38,000.  One of the first dailies in 
    Lithuania published since 1988. 
    -"Respublika" - Circ. 20,000.  Russian edition, published 
    daily. 
    -"Vakaro Zinios" [Evening News]- scandal sheet and largest 
    circulation tabloid (PAS - in the group or in the country?)- 
    about 200,000 copies throughout Lithuania. 
    -"Vakaru Ekspresas" - Circ. 20,000. Largest daily in Western 
    Lithuania. 
    -"Siaulio Krastas" - Circ. 20,000. Siauliai city and county 
    daily. 
    -"Panevezio balsas" - Circ. 20,000.  Panevezys city and region 
    daily. 
    "ELTA" wire service - one of two services that provide content 
    for most town and regional papers. 
 
 
MULTIPLE MOTIVES 
---------------- 
 
¶6. (SBU) Diana Vilyte, OSF-Lithuania Director, told us that the 
articles are in retaliation for OSF Lithuania's criticism of 
Tomkus for publishing anti-Semitic articles.  Vilyte and other OSF- 
Lithuania affiliates called for the prosecution of Tomkus in 2004. 
Respublika also printed a series of inflammatory front-page 
articles about the judge who presided over the anti-Semitic 
articles case, Audrius Cininas.  Respublika sent journalists out 
to Judge Cininas's house and investigated his property holdings 
during the anti-Semitic trial.  Viltye and Cininas are considering 
separate slander cases against Respublika for making false 
statements, although there is little legal precedent in Lithuania 
for such action. 
¶7. (SBU) Vilyte also noted that the Liberal Democratic Party of 
impeached President Paksas may also support the attack in some 
coordinated fashion.  ELTA newswire reported November 16 that the 
Liberal Democratic parliamentary faction has asked the State 
Security Department to investigate Soros's organizations in 
Lithuania and find out if these structures are usurping 
Lithuania's public sector.  When Vilyte (please protect) asked PM 
Brazauskas about Respublika's claim that the PM himself has asked 
the State Security Department (VSD) to investigate OSF-Lithuania, 
the PM reportedly refuted the claim but added that "everyone" is 
too afraid of Tomkus to challenge him publicly.  Importantly, 
Respublika has also attempted to discredit President Adamkus by 
linking him to Soros.  The 
 
¶8. (SBU) Darius Kuolys, Director of the Civil Society Institute, 
remarked to us that the Social Democratic-Labor Coalition is also 
interested in diminishing the influence of think tanks and civil 
society institutions in Lithuania, and may also support the 
articles.  Transparency International and the Civil Society 
Institute have been outspoken critics of the current government 
for corruption and promoting transparency in EU structural funds. 
He also believes that the articles seek to diminish the stature of 
U.S. and Western-supported institutions in Lithuania.  He noted 
that November 17 edition of Respublika contained this bon mot: 
"Ultimatum: if Soros-politicians undermine popularly elected 
leaders, Respublika's leadership will export back to the U.S. 
Soros's package that currently occupies the Presidential Palace 
[read: President Adamkus]." 
 
MECHANICS OF DISINFORMATION 
--------------------------- 
 
¶9. (SBU) The primary thrust of the Respublika campaign has been 
to: 
 
-- malign Soros's intentions and activities by implying links to 
   crime, terrorism, the CIA and instability (including the 
   current riots in France); 
-- craft an exaggerated perception of the scope, strength, and 
   subversive nature of a purported  "campaign" to wield high- 
   level influence and manipulate public opinion; 
-- accuse the Soros "network" and civil society in general of 
   sowing discontent and instability to reduce public confidence 
   in the current government; and 
-- associate Soros with anti-democratic practices, ironically by 
   citing his role in pro-democratic revolutions in Ukraine and 
   Georgia. 
 
Once Soros is established as the enemy, pro-western civil society 
leaders who have received money from OSF and politicians who are 
linked to them are tarnished by association.  A former Respublika 
journalist told us that, because Respublika group readers tend to 
be less trusting of the West, this campaign will likely bolster 
their distrust in civil society institutions and center-right 
political groups, including Adamkus and  the Conservative party. 
 
¶10. (SBU) The campaign may erflect Tomkus's personal political 
beliefs or his desire to strike back at those who criticize him. 
There are indications, however, that the campaign may be motivated 
by deeper political objectives.  The writings closely coincide 
with Soros-related attacks in Latvia, Georgia, Ukraine and 
elsewhere.  Egidijus Aleksandravicius, a professor at Vytautas 
Magnus University who is a victim of this campaign, told us that 
he believes the series to bemotivated by foreign interests. 
Kuolys also believes that national and especially local media are 
influenced by foreign (read Russian) funds. 
 
OUR RESPONSE: SOLIDIFYING TRANSFORMATION 
---------------------------------------- 
 
¶11. (SBU) The Embassy condemned Respublika's anti-Semitic and 
homophobic articles in 2004, and hosted two seminars on tolerance 
in 2005 for media, the public, and NGOs.  The Ambassador and other 
Embassy officials have spoken at Transparency International- 
supported events.  In January, the Ambassador will host an NGO 
roundtable to discuss tolerance, civil society, and character 
education as part of our ongoing, high-profile campaign to 
solidify the transformation of Lithuania's still-young democracy. 
 
¶12.  (SBU) We expect Tomkus to continue his attacks as long as 
they serve his purpose and he has copy.  One apparent source of 
gratification for him is the attention he draws from his antics. 
If they were not so despicable, it might be useful to ignore his 
published statements, but some of them are too hateful to let 
slide.  The Embassy will continue to support civil society and 
speak out against intolerance at every opportunity. 
 
MULL