MUNICH (AP) — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the rapid debunking of a claim that a German soldier serving as part of a NATO mission to Lithuania raped a teenage girl "underlines the importance of a free and independent media."

The claim was made Tuesday in an anonymous email to a Lithuanian lawmaker and media outlets, but it was quickly investigated and found to be fake.

Rasa Jukneviciene, a lawmaker and former defense minister, on Saturday suggested that Russia may have invented the claim to discredit the new NATO force on its borders.

Stoltenberg said he didn't know who was behind the claim, but told The Associated Press the incident shows "the best way to fight disinformation, lies, propaganda is to have an open and free debate and an independent, critical press."