Res Publica Report October-November 2019



During the period of October 1 and November 21 five Lithuanian mainstream news websites 15min.lt, Delfi.lt, Lrytas.lt, Delfi.ru, Alfa.lt, and the fringe news website ekspertai.eu were monitored. In total news websites published 6664 articles, which generated 26 977 [1]comments.



Delfi.lt is the largest news website in Lithuania by the number of real users and the time spent on the website as well as generating the comments. See table below. However, due to the changed structure of Delfi.lt and Alfa.lt websites we are not able to crawl the comments of these websites at the moment.


The statistics of articles, comments and IPs remain unchanged ( as in September): articles published in/by Delfi.lt received the most of comments while 15min.lt published a larger number of articles. It should be noted, that 15min.lt is considered among the Lithuanian public as the website with a greater portion of quality media and a lesser amount of commercial media than other media outlets in question. In addition, 15min.lt has a strong investigative journalism section. The website is more appreciated by an intellectual reader. The website receives six times fewer comments than Lrytas.lt or Delfi.lt. This is due to the website’s policy of commentators’ registration. The policy ensures the quality of comments but also withholds many people from commentating because many do not like to reveal their identity.


Lrytas.lt website is the second in generating comments, although according to the number of articles, it is in the third position.


During the monitoring period the most commented articles were about the domestic issues. Comments raise and discuss topics and themes in such a way that form the contextual narrative of a domestic failure: the Government’s negligence, poor governance, abuse of the position, nepotism, corruption, absence of justice and fair trial, mismanagement and conscious indifference to the interests and needs of the ordinary citizens as well as their exposure to sufferings.

The most commented topics and themes were following:


1. The case of Ms Neringa Venckienė, a former member of the Lithuanian Parliament and judge who was recently (06.11.2019) extradited from the United States. The Venskienė case is directly related to the so – called “Drąsius Kedys”/ “Drąsos Kelias“ case (events took place in 2009, alleged accusations of pedophilia, killings) which was/is highly resonant. During the monitoring period the news websites would report 2 – 3 times a day about the current status of the Ms Venskiene case as well as the case history and its broader contexts; articles would generate hundreds, sometimes over a thousand comments and shares.


Venckienė fled Lithuania in 2013 after the parliament stripped her of legal immunity. The current charges against her are refusing to obey a court order, resisting a police officer, hindering a bailiff, and hitting Ms Stankūnaitė, the mother of her niece. The Lithuanian Prosecutor office initially charged Ms Venskiene with 13 offences, however the US court granted extradition under four charges. Venckienė says the accusations are politically motivated.


The case of Venskiene and her brother Drasius Kedys that started in 2009 is multifaceted. The comments discuss following topics and themes: rule of law, justice and fair trial, efficiency of law enforcement officers, transparency, sexual abuse of children, role of politicians and that some politicians build their political carriers on such cases; also the role of the Honorary Chairman of the Homeland Party Vytautas Landsbergis as well as the former President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite in the case are discussed and criticized.


The topics and themes raised by commenters on the news website coincide with the topics and themes in the FB social groups – closed and open social groups in support to Neringa Venskiene. Comments in social media are more open and direct. Both comments – on the news websites and in social media position Ms Venskiene as a victim and voice concerns for her safety and security; also, they raise conspiracy theories of about the causes of death of people (including Kedys himself) involved the “Drąsius Kedys” case.


Having in mind that in 2020 there is the parliamentary elections in Lithuania, the Venskiene’s case (which is minor from the legal point of view) will continue to generate the public interest and will be used or even abused to stir conspiracy, distrust among the Lithuanian society.

2. Another topic that received major attention among commentators is the suicide of the young doctor of the Vilnius University Hospital, one the leading hospitals of Lithuania. The tragic event triggered major public discussion among society and among the medicine community about the toxic professional (doctor to doctor) relationship, the position and attitude towards young medicine doctors, ill traditions of bulling in the health care sector as well as public respect and publics ethics. Many comments are directed personally to the head of the department where the young doctor worked. Comments raise topics of cruelty, indifference and bullying practice cultivated and tolerated in the health care sector; also, the nepotism, protectionism and corruption among medicine doctors are discussed. These comments build the contextual narrative about the weak state, ineffective governance of the Lithuanian heath care, lack of transparence and accountability.

3. The management of the large-scale fire in Alytus at Ekologistika’s tire storage facility (covering an area of 2,000 square meters) showed a lack of systemic preparation and smooth inter-institutional cooperation once the fire broke out, putting down the fire, managing the emerged danger to people’s health and afterwards taking care of firefighters (their safety and health, payment for extra hours 24/7, etc.). All these issues were raised, discussed by commentators. The fire broke out on October 16 and it took 10 days to extinguish. All these aspects were raised by commentators. Comments are full of sarcasm about the state and local institutions’ ability and capability to govern. The contextual narrative of a failing state and of a domestic failure is constructed.

4. Pulp fiction. Stories about Lithuanian influencers and celebrities, other local or national public figures: their holidays, divorces, newborns, wealth, basketball players and their wives, new houses, etc. The contextual narrative is about the success and happiness – being successful means being wealthy, having lot of money and consuming a lot (luxury hotels, dresses, beauty/plastic surgery, etc.)

5. The information that the President of Lithuania and his wife on their way back from Japan visited their student daughter in South Korea at their own expenses caused a wave of comments questioning who paid for travel costs of their bodyguards and their other staff members. In the context of social equality and social exclusion (which is perceived as a major threat to the country’s safety and security) and combined with commercial media’s empathies on consumerism, the comments about this information strongly echoed the absence of trust in the state institutions and fair management of finances.


The drafting of the national budget for the next year did not receive much attention by commentators. The debate on the decrease of the threshold (from 5% to 3%) for the political parties to be elected to the Parliament next year did not attract much of commentators’ attention.


It is worth noting that two topics that generated a sufficient amount of comments in September now lost some interest among commentators. Namely, two topics: i) the issue of the Seimas Speaker Pranskietis’ refusal to resign after his withdrawing his membership from the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens party, the majority holding parliamentary party; ii) the issue of Russia’s influence on Lithuanian politicians: Lithuanian MP Irina Rozova and MEP Valdemar Tomaševski, the leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance (LLRA-KŠS), testified on 20 November before the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence. The parliamentary investigation was launched after it came to light that the State Security Department had recommended in a report to Viktoras Pranckietis, the speaker of the Seimas, that MP Rozova be denied access to classified information. Rozova and Russian diplomats discussed financial support for her party, the Russian Alliance


It should be noted that foreign policy issues received little attention and the first foreign policy news – death of one of the IS leaders A.B. al- Baghdadi, that generated comments, is only in the 60th place.

Top 30 most commented articles in October and November 2019

Note. Titles of articles are quoted in Lithuanian



The monitoring of the most reacted (positive/negative) comments


The monitoring of the most reacted (positive/negative) comments showed following tendency: the positive reaction to the comments prevailed meaning that the critical or negative (grounded or not) comments were supported widely.



The most active commentators


The tendency remains the same as before: the most active commentators (IPs) in October and November are related to the fringe website ekspertai.eu. The most of comments were generated in Lithuania: Vilnius, Kaunas and Šiauliai, Šakiai, Gargždai, Klaipėda; one IP address is registered in Moscow, Russia and few IPs are in Chicago (US), UK and Ireland.


See table below. The full list of IPs can be provided upon the request.



Miscellaneous


There are 1217 753 real users of internet in Lithuania and their number grows. Delfi.lt is an absolute leader among news portals, with growing number of real users (625 772 users) and the increase in page views and visits. The second is the news website is 15min.lt (451 060 real users), followed by Lrytas.lt news website (362 767real users). The number of real users, page views and visits of those three news websites fluctuates – sometimes increases, sometimes drops. Currently, we do not have sufficient data to determine whether the growth of visits to the news websites is due to the news coverage or due to commercial media and marketing campaigns.


[1] Number of comments changes (grows) as articles are online

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