Winners of the Global Lithuanian Awards are refusing to accept them from President Gitanas Nausėda over his endorsement of right-wing groups.
They include Laisves TV (Freedom TV), an online TV channel established by the journalist Andrius Tapinas, which organised a large-scale event last year in support of Belarusian opposition, as well as representatives of Vilnius-Lithuania iGEM, a winner of the synthetic biology competition iGEM.
President Nausėda has recently drawn criticism for his seeming endorsement of reactionary and anti-LGBTQ+ groups that organised the Big Family Defence March in May and held an anti-government rally outside the parliament building earlier this month.
“On behalf of Laisvės TV, I would like to state that we appreciate very much the work done by Global Lithuanian Leaders and we are grateful for the appreciation, but we refuse to accept this award from the hands of Gitanas Nausėda,” Tapinas posted on Facebook on Tuesday.
“By choosing to communicate with criminals and support unlawful rallies, which featured calls to hang MPs, the presidential office has undermined values we hold dear, lost any confidence and become a toxic place we would not like to be associated with,” he wrote.
Tapinas believes that “the incumbent president is not the person to talk about unity, proclaim citizenship and love for the homeland”.
Representatives of Vilnius-Lithuania iGEM told BNS on Tuesday that “in the context of the presidential office's latest positions and action, and to protect the integrity of our values, we refuse to accept the award from the president's hands”.
They also said they knew “a number of young Lithuanian scientists whose basic rights, respect and a safe life are not ensured, therefore, they are forced to renounce their scientific careers in Lithuania”.
Aušra Kukelkaitė, head of Global Lithuanian Leaders, told BNS she didn’t know yet how to approach the situation.
“I don’t now yet what we will do in this situation. I believe we will try to talk to all winners tomorrow [Wednesday] and see what's the opinion of the other winners,” she said.
A meeting with the award winners is scheduled to take place at the presidential office on July 16, she said.
The president's office told BNS that “in a free country, everyone has the right to decide who to accept awards from”.
Held annually since 2012, the Global Lithuanian Awards honor professionals with merits to Lithuania. They are organised by the NGO Global Lithuanian Leaders.