Published on August 28, 2012
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Was Drasius Kedys the executioner in a double homicide that claimed the lives of a judge and his sister-in-law? Or is he the man who sacrificed his own life to defend his 4-year-old daughter against a clan of high-echelon pedophiles, including the aforementioned judge?
To Respublika (Republic), an influential Lithuanian daily, and its evening satellite, Vakaro Zinios (Evening News), the answer is clear: “Drasius Kedys’ sacrifice is too heavy for the judiciary,” proclaims the headline of a January 2011 article in the daily.
Sidas Aksomaitis, one of the newspaper’s more seasoned journalists, leads with a blunt personal conviction: “Kedys in attempts to defend his little daughter from the pedophiles has paid the biggest price - his life. Was it, however, worth the sacrifice provided the pedophiles have avoided the wrath of Themis?”
But to the largest Lithuanian daily, Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuanian Daily), Kedys is more than just the only presumed suspect in the double homicide.
“Drasius Kedys was used to getting from life whatever he wanted. And when the prosecutors, social workers didn’t give into his threats, the psyche of the baby with the silver spoon in his mouth blew up facing the reality…He was entangled in his own illusions and the sickish mission he believed he had to wage war against- the imaginable clan of pedophiles… He is the local dandy who become a hunted beast…” writes Lietuvos Rytas in its in-depth article titled: “Pakaunes dandy became a hunted beast.”
A Novel’s Worth of Drama
Hardly any other criminal case in Lithuania’s 21-year independent history has been as divisive as this alleged-pedophilia-turned-double-murder. Oh, and don’t forget the mysterious deaths of suspects.
Now nearing its third anniversary, the case involves two murders, two mysterious deaths of the suspected killer and an alleged pedophile – who many believe also committed murder - and a row of sacked investigators and prosecutors.
Over the past three years, the investigation has branched into nearly a dozen investigations. But with their complexity and the suspects in both cases dead, the principal investigation has stalled. Meanwhile, believers of the pedophilia-scenario have coalesced into the growing political party Drasiaus Kelias.
“Regrettably, Lithuanian media from the very breakout of the scandal scrambled to choose sides of the story, although the prosecutor’s office clearly pointed from the beginning to Kedys as the plotter and killer and reiterated it had no evidence of any wrongdoing against the girl’s alleged main abuser, Andrius Usas,” a prosecutor in Lithuanian General Prosecutor’s Office said.
Juicy Details Stain Press
Even respected Lithuanian media outlets have become yellowish in covering the pedophile case, delving into the juicy details of private lives, dodging the prosecution’s evidence and often forgetting that the little girl is in the epicenter of the events.
Flip through Lithuanian newspapers or turn on a local radio or TV channel and you will find a slew of “investigative” articles and elaborate programs with catchy headlines so polarizing that, in the peak of a heated debate, many would ask each other: “What TV channel are you watching? LNK or TV3? What are you reading? Lietuvos Rytas or Respublika?” Coverage of the case has been overwhelmingly divisive and controversial across Lithuania.
Is a heartbreaking video recorded by Kedys and then sent by him to hundreds of national and foreign media outlets, his daughter is shown striking provocative poses. The father’s voice is heard demandingly asking the daughter to tell and show what the “bad men” did to her.
Delving Into Gory Details
Is the video staged, fake or proof of sexual abuse?
In the courtroom, prosecutors and child psychologists who questioned the tape’s credibility ruled unanimously: it cannot be a piece of the evidence. But most Lithuanian media outlets persist in airing it without blurring the little girl’s face.
In the criminal case, journalists have delved into the smallest and dimmest details surrounding the murders of which Kedys is accused. The General Prosecutor’s Office reiterated from the beginning that it considers Kedys to be an executioner and doesn’t have any evidence of crime against the girl. But still many journalists standing on the different sides of the barricades snubbed prosecution’s findings.
Did Laima Stankunaite, Kedys’ wife and the girl’s mother, help the pedophile clan in exchange for lavish presents from them?
No evidence was found of that, but the pro-Kedys media, led by the most popular Lithuanian TV channel TV3, are enthralled by the idea and have discussed it round-the-clock.
Or did Stankunaite herself fall victim to the powerful Kedys family where the alledged double murderer’s sister is judge and some other relatives are in the judiciary as well?
The two dailies and the TV channels have startlingly opposite views on the young woman.
“She was like a servant in the Kedys family…She would be rebuked for her descent from an ordinary and poor family, for her little education…She suffered from Drasius Kedys’ infidelity and violence…” A report in Lietuvos Rytas may make you squeeze a tear in defense of Stankunaite, mother of the girl.
Meanwhile, Respublika portrays the attractive young woman as a vicious co-plotter of her own daughter’s sexual abuse.
With the litigation, however, being far from over, Lithuanian media is taking heavy punches for the toll of its taboidish stance: a riled society, money-stoked journalism and even for the birth of the controversial party Drasiaus Kelias.
“As much as the story is scandalous and gripping everyone, as much Lithuanian media has violated the core journalistic principles of objectivity, impartiality and different opinions while covering the story. Even those journalists whom I considered to be stalwarts of the profession have betrayed the principles and given into manipulations, intrigues and false information,” says Zygintas Peciulis, media professor at Vilnius University’s Institute of Journalism.
He adds: “It is very bad for journalism that journalists, instead of trying to reflect different opinions, mingled with the raucous crowd in Garliava (where the drama took place) and reflected only its opinion.”
An examination of the coverage of the pedophilia drama in foreign press yields an overwelming majority of stories defending Kedys. Why?
Deividas Velkas, advisor for Lithuania’s Journalist Ombudsman Service, says that it is so due the fact that abundant Kedys supporters have launched a vociferous campaign of public relationships, both in Lithuania and abroad.
“They have flooded media with their information, while the other side chose to stay silent for most of the time. However, media, instead of scrutinizing and verifying the information from the only source and seeking other sources, has simply become the herald of the Kedys’ side,” says Velkas.
All media analysts unanimously agree the biased media sought higher ratings and profits – not journalistic impartiality - in the frenzy.
Rimas Bruzas, a journalist and media analyst, says that Lithuanian media has not passed the exam of journalism and given up to the lures of higher TV ratings.
“Maybe only the national TV channel was as close to the core journalism principles as possible. However, the commercial stations have screwed them up, openly employing disrespect, impartiality and bad ethics,” the expert notes.
What approach would have been the best in the highly charged criminal case?
“There was obviously needed a lot more wisdom, common sense and less cajoling to the masses. We all see that the blockbuster versions of the case have blown up as if soup bubbles and, ironically, the TV programs airing them have not secured their spot on air next TV season. To speak illustratively, a job in a butchery or morgue is a lot more honorable and decent than the journalists’ production we all were fed,” Bruzas says.
He says media’s responsibility started when Kedys began sending the notorious video of his daughter. Most outlets aired it without even questioning its credibility.
“With the fatal shots fired, media picked up and fed the frenzy with stunning headlines and blurbs, such descriptions as ‘stunning’, ‘exclusive material’, ‘revealing the truth’. It seems that few editors gave a thought to the consequences of the sensational coverage. We all see the fallout: stirred up society, upon the pedophilia case-built political party that seeks to muscle its way into Lithuanian parliament,” the media expert says.
However, Kristupas Krivickas, producer of Abipus Sienos (Behind the Wall) defends the media’s approach, saying that the commercial media has “to adapt” to what its audience or readership want to read, hear or see.
“From that sense, I do not consider myself to be the blood-smelling griffon that is circling around for as long as the smell lingers,” Krivickas says.
With parliamentary elections in October approaching, the girl, now 7 now, has been reunited with her mother. They are hiding in a state-chosen location, only occasionally venturing to appear in public with armed state-provided bodyguards at their sides.
The drama has temporarily turned into the political show: will the Drasius Kelias Party clinch parliamentary seats? If so, how many? And, most importantly, what impact could the parliament newcomers have on the political system and on the law enforcement that the Kedys kin is resolute to hang in the gallows?
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