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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS1223 2005-11-18 15:30:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
Cable title:  

LITHUANIAN DAILY ATTACKS OPEN SOCIETY FUND, CIVIL SOCIETY

Tags:   PREL PGOV ECON KPAO KNAR LH 
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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