18:25 GMT +317 October 2019
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    Lithuanian State Security Warns Citizens Against Cooperating With Sputnik

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    On Wednesday, Lithuania's State Security Department (the VSD) issued a report urging journalists, public figures and the general public not to cooperate with the Sputnik news agency, warning that the organ "designed to disseminate Russian propaganda" has plans to establish hubs in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Delfi.lt reports.

    According to the VSD report, Sputnik employees have been spotted in the capitals of Lithuania and Estonia, collecting information about local radio stations and TV channels, and investigating the possibility of acquiring broadcast licenses, as part of their plans to offer local news service in Russian, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian. At the same time, the report notes that agency workers have been speaking with the local Russian minority groups, and even with Russian embassy personnel.

    The report also notes that "upon entering the information space of the Baltics and other countries, Sputnik's management seeks to form professional teams comprised of local journalists, commentators and others, charged with preparing news reports, creating topics, taking interviews and promptly preparing information."

    Shy about long-standing charges of discrimination against its Russian minority, the VSD warns that once established, Sputnik will likely "attempt to present Lithuania as a country intolerant toward its national minorities." The report also notes that the agency has plans to "spread misinformation" using neo-fascist and nationalist concepts.

    Ultimately, the report calls on Lithuania's journalists, the public and "each individual citizen" not to engage with Sputnik, "not to enter into non-transparent transactions, and to critically evaluate any proposals for cooperation." Moreover, the Department asks residents "to inform the VSD" about proposals for cooperation based on 'murky dealings'.

    The State Security Department, a state institution formally accountable to the country's parliament and the president, is ostensibly charged with protecting Lithuania's sovereignty and its constitutional system. According to the description of the organization provided by the European Police Office, the institution's "role is to identify activities which constitute a threat to the security of the state, its territorial inviolability and integrity."

    The Sputnik Multimedia Group is a news agency and radio network with news hubs operating in dozens of countries around the world. Sputnik broadcasts via websites, mobile device apps, social media, analog and digital radio. Since coming online last November, the agency has faced a bevy of criticism from Western lawmakers, officials and mainstream media outlets, who have called the agency's content "Russian propaganda." The agency has consistently rejected the charges, noting that what it offers is an alternative to the one-sided news coverage provided by much of mainstream Western media.


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