What is your role in the organisation you are leading?

Since 2016, I have been heading the National Educational NGO Network, Lithuania, that unites educational organisations working in the fields of preschool and general education, non-formal children and adult, as well as higher education. The Network aims to contribute to the quality and diversity of formal and non-formal education in Lithuania, ensure the inclusion of and support to the most vulnerable groups of society, and foster the renewal of education in keeping with the global changes and the needs of the learners.
My main role is to ensure the conceptual consistency of national education policies at the strategic and tactical levels, namely, analyse educational policy documents and watchdog their implementation, draft recommendations for their improvement and advocacy actions within national authorities. NGOs are closest to the society, and people hence have the best understanding of the education situation on the ground.
Since 1999, I have been leading the House of Europe, a non-profit organisation that aims to raise public awareness on the European and global developments by empowering citizens to be active and conscious members of their national and global  communities, strengthen democratic values and cultivate civic activity. Major long-term project that we implemented recently were: Model European Parliament, Media4Development, political watchdogging platform Learn Before You Vote, etc. 

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

Both organisations – the National Educational NGO Network, Lithuania, and the House of Europe –  have been aiming to empower and engage civil society and its main representing actors, non-governmental organisations, in building and strengthening democracy, as well as open, transparent and inclusive governance in Lithuania, thus trying to fill in the gap between the society and the government. By laying the foundation for building trust, we diminish the harm of potential disinformation. Critical thinking, media literacy and fact checking are at the core of our and our members’ activities.

What are the main resources developed by your organisation you’d be willing to share?

Analyses and recommendations are published on the Network’s website https://svietimotinklas.lt/tyrimas/ (English version is underway).

Major civic initiatives, activities and projects implemented by the House of Europe can be found at  http://eurohouse.lt/ (in Lithuanian). Also the Study on Integration of the EU Topics into the General Education Curricular (2019), Analysis of the Local Community and Voluntary Activities in Lithuania (2020), Recommendations for NGOs How to Organise Voluntary Activities in Extreme Situations (2020), watchdogging platform of parliamentary elections 2020.

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

In my opinion, the biggest current challenges related to countering disinformation are:

  • the lack of trust in the state and government institutions by society,
  • the lack of consistency and comprehensiveness of the state building process and the engagement of social partners (which are the main priorities and targets of national development),
  • the lack of understanding by state and local government institutions that empowered civic society is the core for national development and resilience.

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?

There are many good initiatives taking place in Lithuania that enhance the society’s resilience to disinformation, and there is immense expertise accumulated, but it is very fragmented and scattered. As a result, the focus is lost, and neither the state nor the society can profit to the utmost of this impressive know-how that Lithuania has got. I would think about the following solutions:

  • building a national coordinated network to ensure targeted and sustainable activities of individual actions and initiatives,
  • stronger integration of critical thinking skills in both formal and non-formal education for different public groups (high level education to strengthen the ability to question public information),
  • development of national platform for stakeholders of fact-checking, storytelling, critical thinking, and stopping the fragmentation of such activities,
  • improving the quality of media and information it creates independently of the business models of media, as well as educating journalists, especially in regional and local media.

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

  • COVID-19 pandemics,
  • elections of the US president,
  • the launch of the unsafe Russian-Belarus nuclear power plant Ostrovets,
  • the national parliamentary elections 2020.

In your opinion, which future three dates/events are likely to bring about the intensification of disinformation activities in 2020-2021?

  • Vaccination from COVID-19 virus,
  • Geopolitical development in the EU Eastern flank (events in Belarus, developments in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and other Eastern Partnership countries),
  • EU-China relations.

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

The malign narratives that are developed by the hostile sources are the same as last year or even a couple of years ago. Stories are different, depending on the current situation, but all stories are structured in such a way so as to support the main hostile narratives.

Currently, as one could expect, there are many malign COVID-19 narratives circulating: conspiracy theories (the fortune building plan by the world elite, the plan of depopulation of the planet, military biological laboratories create the virus, vaccination chips, 5G technologies are spreading the virus, NATO and the EU are falling apart as they failed to cope with the pandemics, the EU and the U.S. are no longer reliable allies, etc.).

Other group of narratives is aimed at national government to undermine any state’s initiative and its reputation, to weaken public trust in the government, etc.

Narratives of controlling the past, history interpretations are always on the agenda, depending on the political calendar. For instance: the anniversary of the WWII, the history of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters – the longest resistance in Europe against the Soviet occupation, the holocaust, the Gulag, etc.

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

I believe in critical thinking and education. Thus, I check facts by comparing sources of information, doing the research on how reliable the information and the reputation of its author is, etc. I regret that the national mainstream media lacks comprehensiveness, consistency and more in-depth analysis, it is usually fragmented and short-term, and reprinted from one source. Journalists should constantly educate, build up knowledge and critical thinking skills.

Would you like to highlight any of the disinformation cases you have witnessed/ discovered/ debunked?

There is a good tendency observed in Lithuania’s media space. It has become popular for the mainstream media outlets to have an investigative or analytical unit where journalist focus on fact-checking, try to debunk disinformation, and at the same time educate public.

There were some cases of debunking rumours against the Covid19 vaccine, cases related to Lithuanian history, as well as national security issues, such as developments in Belarus or the electricity from the unsafe Ostrovets NPP flow into the Baltic energy market.

In your opinion, who are the best performing actors – in your country, as well as in the EU – playing crucial roles in the field of media literacy today and why?

I am convinced that the best performing actor is National NGO Coalition reaching out to different societal groups, on the one hand, and to national and international institutions, on the other, also being a member of European NGO networks. Non-governmental organisations are value-oriented, promptly react to new challenges and have knowledge and expertise how to bring home the messages to diverse audiences.

Director of National Network of Education NGOs
House of Europe
Open, perseverant, with holistic approach