Belarus – Media under dictatorship – Script (en)

He said his action was inevitable: after six and a half years in power Mikhail Gorbatschev confirmed his resignation on television tonight.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union gave a chance for media in Belarus to become independent. Unfortunately, this independence did not last long. After Aliaksandr Lukaschenka came to power in 1994, the media again gradually became subject to restrictions and censorship.

“What are you filming? Who are you? I asked you, what are you filming?”

The development of the Internet and social media has given another promise of liberation to journalists, but will this promise be fulfilled?

Alexander Chulanov, sports correspondent for National State Television, was found dead in his apartment in Minsk in 1994.

Dzmitry Zavadski, a cameraman for ORT, disappeared in July 2000. He was declared dead in 2003.

Mykhailo Kolomyets, a Ukranian journalist and the founder of the Kiyv-based Ukrainian News Agency, was found hanged in the northwestern Belarus in 2002.

Veronika Cherkasova, a reporter for Solidarnost, was stabbed to death in her apartment in Minsk in 2004.

Aleh Byabenin, founder of Charter 97, was found hanged in 2010, just outside Minsk.

The list could be continued…

According to Reporters Without Borders, freedom of media in Belarus is the lowest-rated in Europe. All media remain extremely restricted. State-owned and independent media are subordinated to the president. Journalists constantly face political and economic repressions. Volha Chaychyts, a freelancer for the satellite and online TV station Belsat in Poland, was fined by the Belarusian authorities multiple times over the past years. Her husband, the cameraman Andrei Koziel, experienced the same sanctions.

Nasta Reznikava, a Belarusian journalist, who also works for Belsat TV, describes her journalistic experience as follows:

Nasta Reznikava: “As a Belsat journalist, it is very difficuilt to get a comment from authorities, it’s almost impossible. In Germany it’s like, you call press secretary and they manage a ‘Termin’.”

The majority of Belarusian internet users are active on social media. In 2019, the most popular social media sites in Belarus were VKontakte, Facebook, Twitter and Odnoklassniki. Political activists and online journalists actively use it in order to inform, mobilize, and support civil society of Belarus. But did the development of the internet and social media bring any changes to the current situation in Belarus? Did it fulfill its promise of liberation?

Nasta Reznikava: “Offline nothing has changed, I would say so. Online [things have changed] of course. Many people write comments, many people write very offensive and emotional comments. But if you see the protest activity in Belarus – nothing has changed.”

Despite a decrease in the numbers of arrested journalists in 2018, threats and restrictions of the freedom of speech are still part of their professional everyday life, both online and offline.

Nasta Reznikava: “Our cameraman was detained live. The policeman come to him and said: ‘Please come with me’ and he answered: ‘I am a journalist’. That was the only thing he actually said, because it was all live, we all can see it in internet right now. And then he was sued because of offensive language. And he got 15 days in prison. There is now a joke that ‘I am a journalist’ is now offensive language.”

Hopefully, the situation will change in the nearest future, so that no one should be afraid for his own life for spreading the truth and cultivating the very essential freedom – freedom of speech.



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