On 29th June 2015 an article appeared on the LRT.lt web portal in which a member of the Lithuanian Community in Poland management board, Irena Gasperavičiūtė, introduced by the journalist B. V. as the leader of the Lithuanian Community in Sejny (which, in fact, does not exist) was said to have claimed that since 2005 Lithuanians who live in Poland have had only a theoretical right to their first and last names being spelt in their mother tongue. The article also said that, according to the representative, there are no technical capabilities of spelling first and last names in Lithuanian. Find a link to the article here.
In response to the distortion of words and the false information presented by the author of the article, Ms Gasperavičiūtė wrote a rectification letter to LRT.lt, as well as to interested institutions and organizations. In the letter, she claims that the information provided by her, even her own last name, was twisted by the author of the article. Furthermore, the member of the management board expressed her outrage at the behaviour of the LRT.lt web portal’s journalist, and she stressed the relevance of the reference to Poland, the country of which she is a citizen. She also requested the portal’s editors to correct the abovementioned mistakes, and to announce the correction in a visible spot on the web portal, as well as to inform others about the false information, including mass media outlets and institutions which have quoted or interpreted the statements incorrectly by using the article in question.
In order to additionally verify the information included in the article, The European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) turned to the Civil Registry in Sejny and Puńsk with a request for them to explain and present the actual state of the rights of the Polish national minority members when it comes to the original spelling of their first and last names. From the information received, it is unequivocal that there are currently no obstacles which would preclude members of national minorities from spelling their first and last names using symbols not included in the Polish alphabet. The programmes used by workers of the said offices are technically adjusted to key in every letter and every symbol. Additional information about the right to use the original spelling of first and last names can be found on the Ministry of Administration and Digitization’s website (link).
It is also worth noting that Poland, as opposed to Lithuania, did fulfil the responsibilities which reuslted from adopting the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (the Framework Convention), by passing the National and Ethnic Minorities Act in January 2005. According to Art. 7 of the said act, “persons belonging to a minority have the right to use and spell their first names and surnames as spelt in their minority language, particularly on marriage certificates and identity cards”.
EFHR also calls on the editors of the LRT.lt web portal to officially correct the false information and to cease misleading the public of Lithuania regarding the rights of national minorities living in Poland where the original spelling of first and last names is concerned. These kinds of statements, presented by such a well-known news platform as LRT.lt, cause unnecessary tension between the Polish and Lithuanian nations, and highlight the incompetence of the portal’s workers.