Esther Schrader's piece ''How Western Journalists Hyped the Lithuania Story'' {Outlook, July 15} reveals more about how Schrader hyped this particular story to get it into print. She wants us to believe that Western journalists, under intense pressure to report what was happening in Lithuania, tended to overdramatize the confrontation between Lithuania and the U.S.S.R. over the Baltic republic's decision to reestablish its political independence.

For example, Schrader tells us, it wasn't tanks that were repeatedly rumbling through the streets of Vilnius, as commonly reported, but ''the far less threatening armored personnel carriers.'' Moreover, according to Schrader, there were ''seldom more of them around than is usual in any other large Soviet city.''

In truth, Lithuanians were about as accustomed to seeing armored personnel carriers or tanks moving past the parliament building in the dead of night as Americans are to having their military vehicles rolling down Constitution Avenue past the Capitol while Congress debates the size of the Pentagon budget.

Schrader argues that journalists arriving on the scene in Lithuania did not encounter what they had expected: massive food lines, an economy in shambles, crippling power blackouts and social upheaval, all caused by Moscow's political bullying and economic blockade. She leaves the impression that the correspondents were there as eyewitnesses throughout the entire standoff between Moscow and Vilnius.

In reality, most Western correspondents spent no more than 22 days on the scene covering the confrontation. Lithuania declared the reestablishment of its independence on March 11. By April 2, all Moscow-based correspondents had left Lithuania on orders of Moscow, more than two weeks before the Kremlin had begun its 74-day economic blockade.

Schrader, a free-lance journalist, was one of the lucky ones allowed to remain. But even she was not there for the duration of Moscow's campaign against Lithuania. Her first dispatches from Vilnius began to reach the West in the beginning of March. By her own account, Schrader stayed in Vilnius 2 1/2 months. That means she must have departed Lithuania a month before Moscow lifted its economic blockade. She neglects to tell the reader that most of the Western press corps was not there to witness the blockade in its later stages, as its effects became increasingly burdensome.

Moscow's economic stranglehold, which put 42,000 Lithuanians out of work, did not cause starvation or rioting to break out, but it will hurt Lithuania for months to come, straining its social welfare system and retarding its economic development, thereby further impoverishing the Lithuanian people and placing an added burden on the fledgling democratic government as it sits down to difficult negotiations with the Soviet government. That the Lithuanian people were willing to pay this price, and that they did so stoically, did not absolve Western journalists of their responsibility to report or make it any less important to cover.

On one point I am in complete agreement with Schrader: Western journalists did not do their job in Lithuania. However, while she faults them with hyping the story, I was (and continue to be) amazed at the docility with which they accepted their expulsion from Lithuania. There were no blasts of public, moral outrage by the community of journalists, not a single Western news agency dared to defy Moscow's order or even temporarily tested the Kremlin's resolve.

Who could blame Lithuanian Prime Minister Kazimiera Prunskiene for concluding that the correspondents were taking their cue from -- of all people -- George Bush? In remarks to the National Press Club in Washington on May 4, she said: ''I do not criticize those journalists who decided to leave Lithuania, because I think they were probably doing what they were instructed to do by their bureau in Moscow and their action was in keeping with the foreign policy of the United States. Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand how people of honor would be willing to so readily accept actions against them which were not very dignified.''

How, indeed?

-- Victor Nakas

The writer is Washington branch manager of the Lithuanian Information Center.