06:07 GMT05 August 2020
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    Sputnik Lithuania senior editor Marat Kasem told Sputnik by phone on Tuesday that he had been detained in Vilnius upon arrival at the airport while on a business trip.

    He explained that he'd been "detained with the wording 'threat to national security'" and "banned from entering the country for five years."

    Following the incident at Vilnius Airport, Russia's Permanent Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that the detention of Sputnik Lithuania editor-in-chief Marat Kasem in Vilnius airport was a gross violation of media rights. 

    "The editor-in-chief of @Sputnik_lietuva news agency was detained on arrival at the Vilnius airport under pretext 'a threat to the national security'. This is another example of a gross violation of #media rights and suppression of alternative opinions in the country," the mission wrote on Twitter.

    Later in the day, Sputnik Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan commented on the detention of Marat Kasem saying that the head of Sputnik Lithuania was only doing his job as a journalist. 

    "The head of Sputnik Lithuania was detained and expelled from the country over some kind of threat to the national security. At the same time it is clear for everyone — including those, who detained him — that he is only involved in journalistic activities, nothing more," Simonyan told the Rossiya 24 broadcaster.

    She added that it was currently almost impossible for Russian journalists to work in the Baltic states as they were often questioned by the countries' intelligence services.

    The authorities of the Baltic states have repeatedly sought to hinder the work of the Russian media. In April 2014, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry refused to accredit RIA Novosti correspondent Irina Pavlova, refusing to offer an explanation.

    In October 2015, the Estonian authorities detained All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) correspondent Nikolai Vasilyev and his crew at the Koidula checkpoint. In March 2016, the Lithuanian authorities expelled VGTRK correspondent Pavel Zarubin and his crew.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that these incidents reflect a shared policy among the Baltic countries, specifying that cases of media oppression in the Baltic states "clearly show" that the claims of Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius that they are committed the principles of democracy and free speech are "demagogy".


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