What is your role in the organisation you are leading?

The Lithuanian Journalism Centre focuses on journalism education and education about journalism and public communication which includes important aspects of media literacy. As the leader of the organisation, I am responsible for providing improvement opportunities for experienced mid-career Lithuanian journalists. I am also responsible for increasing understanding about journalism in the broader society. I also search for opportunities to do applied journalism research and prepare methodological materials that could serve as an inspiration for journalists to reflect upon results of their own work. Another focus of my work is seeking to connect journalists with underrepresented sources – be it sources from the disadvantaged social groups or sources that hold top-level expertise. Recently I have put a lot of effort to developing activities that help to improve journalists’ and society’s digital media literacy skills. In this department, we at Lithuanian journalism centre emphasise critical thinking about how digital media affect our society, knowledge we acquire while using it, individual security, and privacy. The latter is becoming increasingly important to journalists who tend to connect to confidential sources online and are seeking to protect their identities and wellbeing.

How would you describe the mission and expertise of your organisation in the field of media literacy/ critical thinking/ fact checking/ countering disinformation?

We provide deep knowledge and skills of the field that is crucial in countering disinformation. Theory and practice of quality journalism has always been related to verification, critical thinking, fact checking and media literacy. In the age of abundance of disinformation, I believe that importance of our work has significantly increased.

Which are, in your opinion, the three biggest current challenges related to countering disinformation in your country?

– High inequality which is connected to socially widespread feelings of insecurity, powerlessness, isolation, and anxiety. Research shows that people who are experiencing those feelings are more likely to embrace conspiracy theories.
– Neglecting the system of public formal and informal education, little attention to media literacy within it.
– No policy to counter the spread of disinformation in social media.

Could you name three solutions that you implemented or else want to recommend as an advice how to counter disinformation, strengthen societies’ critical thinking skills and build civil resilience to disinformation?

– School newspapers project during which we travelled to Lithuanian schools and worked on developing media literacy and journalism skills of young people.
– Digital media literacy handbook for multipliers (school teachers, primarily).
– Expert media trainings which provided experts with knowledge and tools necessary to counter disinformation by spreading high quality expertise based on science and research.

What are the top three events or dates you have witnessed this year that have caused an intensification of disinformation activities?

– Pandemic during which various compulsory quarantine measured were introduced was the major push for the abundance of disinformation.
– Parliamentary election campaign during which some politicians relied on groups and people who are publicly disseminating disinformation.
– Anti-authoritarian movement in Belarus.

What are the prevailing disinformation narratives you have observed in the media space this year?

This year most of disinformation revolved around vaccination to prevent Covid-19, use of masks and other quarantine rules. National defence infrastructure and political decisions related to national defence is another area which constantly gets challenged by made-up narratives accompanied by hacking into media websites or emails of editors and journalists. In messages of this kind Lithuanian independence and some political declarations, like support for Belarus anti-authoritarian movement, are mocked.

Have you been relying on any fact-checking tools? If yes, please describe them or share the links.

Lithuanian journalists who are focusing on analysing disinformation narratives do a good job in deconstructing and verifying facts, so I always refer to fact checker’s articles on 15min.lt, Delfi.lt and lrt.lt to understand better the context of some prevailing disinformation narratives.

Interview published in April, 2021.

Džina Donauskaitė
Director, Lithuanian Journalism Centre
Curious, interested, focused