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  • The Coverage of the 2016 Parliamentary Election in the Belarusian Media (Final Report)

    See illustrations and methodology in attached PDF


    The report sum­maris­es the find­ings of the mon­i­tor­ing of the 2016 par­lia­men­tary elec­tion cov­er­age in the Belaru­sian media.

    The main objec­tive of the mon­i­tor­ing was to pro­mote unbi­ased cov­er­age of the par­lia­men­tary cam­paign that would meet high pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards in jour­nal­ism.

    The mon­i­tor­ing was con­duct­ed by the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists (BAJ), which endeav­oured to draw the atten­tion of the jour­nal­ist com­mu­ni­ty to the impor­tance of giv­ing the elec­torate undis­tort­ed, unbi­ased and com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion about the elec­tion, the can­di­dates’ agen­das and their sup­port­ers’ and oppo­nents’ opin­ions.

    The method­ol­o­gy of the mon­i­tor­ing enabled us to reveal both the over­all mod­el of the elec­tion cov­er­age and instances of poor pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards. We offer both quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive analy­sis of media items. The deci­sive cri­te­ria for their assess­ment were based on inter­na­tion­al­ly accept­ed stan­dards of report­ing on elec­tions and ethics in jour­nal­ism.

    The report encom­pass­es the data accu­mu­lat­ed through­out the mon­i­tored time span.


    The state-owned media cov­ered the 2016 par­lia­men­tary cam­paign in their con­ven­tion­al man­ner, as described below:

    • It was the CEC and oth­er elec­tion com­mis­sions that remained the dom­i­nant fig­ures of the elec­tion field as pre­sent­ed in the state-run media. Their rep­re­sen­ta­tives (most com­mon­ly their chair­per­sons) had the high­est share of air­time among all the per­son­i­fied mon­i­tored actors. At the same time the state-owned media pre­sent­ed the elec­tion com­mis­sions as the most com­pe­tent source of infor­ma­tion about the elec­tion.
    • The news pro­grammes adhered to pre­dom­i­nant­ly deper­son­alised cov­er­age of the can­di­dates. How­ev­er, once in a while the state-owned media offered a group por­trait of the can­di­dates, divid­ing them into dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories.
    • The state-run media still did not turn the spot­light on the polit­i­cal par­ties stand­ing for par­lia­ment, pre­sent­ing them under the gener­ic head­ing ‘polit­i­cal par­ties’ and giv­ing them a mar­gin­al pro­por­tion of elec­tion-relat­ed air­time and space.
    • Any debates between vot­ers were non-exis­tent. The elec­torate was typ­i­cal­ly pre­sent­ed in a deper­son­alised man­ner.
    • The state-run media gave about the same amount of their atten­tion to the CIS observers and the OSCE/ODIHR Mis­sion, assess­ing their work in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly neu­tral light.
    • The share of elec­tion cov­er­age in the news pro­grammes was either com­men­su­rate with that of sport and weath­er or even small­er. When the Sum­mer Olympic Games came to an end, it entailed nei­ther a fall in the air­time giv­en to sports nor a sig­nif­i­cant increase in elec­tion-relat­ed issues.
    • Although the can­di­dates were able to address the elec­torate on TV and on the radio, the state-owned print­ed and elec­tron­ic media did not draw the vot­ers’ atten­tion to their media appear­ances. TV guides pre­sent­ed them under the head­ing Election’2016 or Speech­es of can­di­dates stand­ing for the Cham­ber of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Nation­al Assem­bly of Belarus of the sixth con­vo­ca­tion. No names or exact time of each candidate’s TV and radio appear­ances were giv­en.
    • The web­sites of the lead­ing state-run media did not offer any pre­cise infor­ma­tion on the date and time of the can­di­dates’ broad­casts, either.
    • The inde­pen­dent media focussed more on the can­di­dates and polit­i­cal par­ties stand­ing for par­lia­ment. How­ev­er, nei­ther www.tut.by nor the inde­pen­dent print­ed media were able to become real com­peti­tors of the state-run TV and radio sta­tions.
    • After the vot­ing day, the state-owned and inde­pen­dent media dif­fered in their assess­ments of the vot­ing pro­ce­dure, bal­lot count and elec­tion as a whole.

    Key Findings

    State-owned Media

    When the can­di­dates were cam­paign­ing, the state-run media began to give them more atten­tion, pre­sent­ing them nev­er­the­less in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly deper­son­alised man­ner. At the same time, the CEC and region­al elec­tion com­mis­sions remained in the lead in terms of their share of cov­er­age. Accord­ing to the aggre­gat­ed find­ings for the peri­od between 11 July and 11 Sep­tem­ber, 2016, they had near­ly 44% of the air­time giv­en to all the mon­i­tored elec­tion actors in Glavny Efir week­ly pro­gramme on Belarus 1, 17% in Nashi Novosti  on ONT and about 34% in Radyjo­fakt on the 1st Chan­nel of the Nation­al Radio. The region­al TV pro­grammes, such as Naviny. Homiel of the Homiel Region­al TV and Radio Com­pa­ny and Naviny-rehi­jon of the Mahiloŭ Region­al TV and Radio Com­pa­ny were dom­i­nat­ed by the region­al elec­tion com­mis­sions and polling sta­tion boards, which received up to 40% of the air­time giv­en to all the mon­i­tored elec­tion actors.

    The charts show that the state-run media, as well as the observers of the CIS Mis­sion and the Shang­hai Coop­er­a­tion Organ­i­sa­tion (SCO) were unan­i­mous in their pos­i­tive assess­ment of these bod­ies. For exam­ple, the spokesman for the CIS Mis­sion Tash­in­baev said, ‘We would like to point out that the chair­per­sons of the con­stituen­cy com­mis­sions are well pre­pared and the heads of the polling sta­tion boards show high pro­fes­sion­al skills.’ (Radyjo­fakt, 02/08/16.) Mean­while, CIS observ­er Vik­tor Meleshko said, ‘Dur­ing my time in Słonim dis­trict, I have vis­it­ed a num­ber of polling sta­tions, both urban and rur­al, and observed the work of the con­stituen­cy elec­tion com­mis­sion. The elec­tion process in Słonim dis­trict meets high organ­i­sa­tion­al stan­dards.’ (Słonim­s­ki Vieśnik, 14/09/16.) The mem­bers of elec­tion com­mis­sions spoke pos­i­tive­ly of their work, too.

    In con­trast to the elec­tion com­mis­sions and state offi­cials, the nom­i­nees and reg­is­tered can­di­dates were pre­sent­ed in the mon­i­tored pro­grammes most­ly in a deper­son­alised man­ner, i.e. with­out their names or polit­i­cal affil­i­a­tion. Here is a typ­i­cal report giv­en by a jour­nal­ist of Naviny-rehi­jon on the Mahiloŭ Region­al TV and Radio Com­pa­ny, ‘Besides the intel­li­gentsia, peo­ple employed in indus­try, trans­port and con­struc­tion, are going to stand for par­lia­ment; they account for 8% of all the can­di­dates. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of state insti­tu­tions also make up 8%.  A quar­ter of all the can­di­dates are women. 8% are young peo­ple under thir­ty. It was said at the news con­fer­ence that eighty five prospec­tive can­di­dates sub­mit­ted to the con­stituen­cy com­mis­sions of the region one hun­dred and eight appli­ca­tions for reg­is­tra­tion. The dis­tri­b­u­tion of the types of nom­i­na­tion was as fol­lows: forty two were nom­i­nat­ed by vot­ers’ signed endorse­ments, and eigh­teen were nom­i­nat­ed by the staff of organ­i­sa­tions and com­pa­nies.’

    On 21 August, 2016 the Chair­per­son of the Belaru­sian TV and Radio Davy­dź­ka divid­ed the can­di­dates in Glavny Efir into three groups after watch­ing their media appear­ances, ‘The first group are, you know, suc­cess­ful and expe­ri­enced peo­ple, such as school head­mas­ters and CEOs of pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies. They are self-con­fi­dent. As a rule, they are well pre­pared to make an address; they know what they are doing and why they are going to par­lia­ment. And the cam­era loves them.

    ‘The sec­ond group are those to whom their par­ty said, “you must do it,” and they answered “yes,” to put it plain­ly. They may not real­ly believe in their vic­to­ry, but they are try­ing to make their brands, their par­ties and them­selves recog­nis­able, well, to the best of their abil­i­ties.

    ‘Final­ly, the third group is the most inter­est­ing sam­ple, in my opin­ion, of new peo­ple that have made their way in our elec­toral his­to­ry in gen­er­al. These are “hap­py-go-lucky” can­di­dates. They do not rely on any expe­ri­ence, they don’t know why they are stand­ing for par­lia­ment, actu­al­ly, they can­not present them­selves and they often talk non­sense.’ His eval­u­a­tion of each of the three groups explic­it­ly prompt­ed the vot­ers for whom they should cast their bal­lots.

    Anoth­er par­tic­i­pant in the dis­cus­sion, the Edi­tor-in-Chief of the Źvi­az­da state-run paper Kar­lukievič, offered an addi­tion to this clas­si­fi­ca­tion, ‘I think there is also a cat­e­go­ry of very well-known indi­vid­u­als in the infor­ma­tion field… Their agen­das are shaped by their pre-con­cep­tions that peo­ple know that the authors of these agen­das are only going to crit­i­cise and put for­ward cer­tain slo­gans, that these slo­gans with­out any grounds are enough.’ 

    Mr Jakubovič, the Edi­tor-in-Chief of the Belarus Segonya, aired an opin­ion that respon­si­ble can­di­dates ‘must give up all rhetoric and say things like, “I’ll help the author­i­ties with the park­ing lots, for exam­ple, if I am elect­ed, I’ll help the author­i­ties to put the fol­low­ing things right in the dis­trict…”’  The pro­pos­al evi­dent­ly lim­it­ed the prospec­tive par­lia­men­tar­i­ans’ sta­tus as law­mak­ers; more­over, it under­mined the prin­ci­ple of the divi­sion of pow­ers in Belarus.

    By describ­ing the can­di­dates in this fash­ion, the mon­i­tored pro­grammes allot­ted to them a con­sid­er­able share of their elec­tion-relat­ed air­time (between 7% and 14%, depend­ing on the pro­gramme). This cre­at­ed an impres­sion of the can­di­dates’ pres­ence in the media field, but did not give the vot­ers any infor­ma­tion about the can­di­dates’ and their par­ties’ polit­i­cal agen­das.

    As for the polit­i­cal par­ties’ media pres­ence, it was not just less pro­nounced but mar­gin­al, if any at all. For instance, Nashi Novosti on ONT, Panara­ma on Belarus 1 and Glavny Efir on Belarus 1 avoid­ed refer­ring to def­i­nite polit­i­cal par­ties what­so­ev­er. When they were men­tioned, their shares of air­time and space were less than 0.5% (see, for exam­ple, the Charts for www.belta.by or Radyjo­fakt).

    Instead of def­i­nite oppo­si­tion par­ties, the state-owned media pre­sent­ed the ‘oppo­si­tion’ as a deper­son­alised actor. All the same, it received a mea­gre amount of media atten­tion, as com­pared to the ear­li­er elec­tions.

    It was the Belaru­sian Nation­al Youth Union (BNYU) that became a real per­son­i­fied actor of this par­lia­men­tary cam­paign. It had not played such a promi­nent role in the pre­vi­ous year’s pres­i­den­tial race. This pro-gov­ern­men­tal organ­i­sa­tion was pre­sent­ed in a pos­i­tive light exclu­sive­ly and its rep­re­sen­ta­tives were giv­en an oppor­tu­ni­ty to appear on air in Nashi Novosti on ONT on 3 August, 2016, to give just one exam­ple, by con­trast with all the oppo­si­tion polit­i­cal forces and NGOs.

    The increased media atten­tion to the BNYU can prob­a­bly be attrib­uted to the organisation’s ver­sa­tile activ­i­ties dur­ing the elec­tion. Accord­ing to its First Sec­re­tary Andrej Bielakoŭ, ‘the Youth Union has always tak­en quite an active part in all polit­i­cal cam­paigns, includ­ing the cur­rent one… Six BNYU mem­bers have been includ­ed in the region­al and Min­sk City elec­tion com­mis­sions, nine­ty BNYU peo­ple are mem­bers of con­stituen­cy com­mis­sions and about thir­ty-five hun­dred are on polling sta­tion boards. As of 1 August, one hun­dred and eight observers have received their accred­i­ta­tion and we are plan­ning to have accred­it­ed at least fifty-five hun­dred BNYU mem­bers by 20 August… we are going to join in the cam­paign­ing.’ (Radyjo­fakt, 08/08/2016.) In oth­er words, the BNYU was not only engaged in mobil­is­ing young vot­ers, count­ing bal­lots and observ­ing the count, but also cam­paigned for its can­di­dates. As it even­tu­al­ly turned out, the BNYU leader has been appoint­ed mem­ber of the upper cham­ber of the Belaru­sian par­lia­ment.

    Vot­ers were for the most part pre­sent­ed anony­mous­ly. Their voic­es were heard main­ly in the con­text of mobil­is­ing the elec­torate to go to the polls.

    As we have men­tioned above, the CIS observers and the OSCE/ODIHR Mis­sion received a com­men­su­rate amount of cov­er­age. Every now and then the state-run media briefly inter­viewed their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, fea­tur­ing them in a pre­dom­i­nant­ly neu­tral man­ner. At the same time, it is nec­es­sary to point out that the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the CIS Observ­er Mis­sion aired their opin­ions in the elec­tron­ic media more often than their OSCE/ODIHR coun­ter­parts. To give just one exam­ple, Panara­ma grant­ed the CIS observers direct access to air, rather than let reporters inter­pret their words, accord­ing to the data for the peri­od between 25 July and 10 Sep­tem­ber, 2016. More­over, the CIS observers fea­tured on air twice as much as their west­ern coun­ter­parts and the opin­ions of the lat­ter were some­times assessed neg­a­tive­ly.

    The state-owned elec­tron­ic media also pre­sent­ed the opin­ions of observers of the Shang­hai Coop­er­a­tion Organ­i­sa­tion, albeit much less promi­nent­ly.

    Even though the mon­i­tored media offered quite a lot of infor­ma­tion about the elec­tion, or, to be more pre­cise, its organ­i­sa­tion­al tech­ni­cal­i­ties, elec­tion-relat­ed issues were far from their pri­or­i­ty list. As we have point­ed out in our inter­im reports, the four-year cycle of par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Belarus is in sync with that of the sum­mer Olympics. How­ev­er, in 2004, 2008 and 2012 can­di­dates were reg­is­tered when the Olympics had fin­ished, but this time the key stage of cam­paign­ing coin­cid­ed with Olympic broad­casts. As a result, the share of time allot­ted to the par­lia­men­tary elec­tion was either low­er than that of sports news, as in Nashi Novosti on ONT or Naviny on Radyjo Stal­i­ca or com­men­su­rate with the lat­ter, as in Radyjo­fakt on the 1st Chan­nel of the Nation­al Radio or Naviny-rehi­jon of the Mahiloŭ Region­al TV and Radio Com­pa­ny (see the Charts).  Fur­ther­more, elec­tion-relat­ed items did not open the news broad­casts but were sand­wiched between oth­er reports. In some instances, the shares of elec­tion-relat­ed issues were com­men­su­rate with those of weath­er fore­casts.

    Direct Access

    The can­di­dates were able to appear in the elec­tron­ic state-run media, such as Belarus 3 and CTV TV sta­tions and the local radio as well as had their pro­grammes print­ed free of charge in the state-owned papers appoint­ed by the CEC. The can­di­dates’ appear­ances were tele­vised from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and broad­cast on the radio from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on week­days.

    They were pre­sent­ed in the TV guide for Belarus 3 as Elec­tion’2016. It deserves men­tion­ing that not only the can­di­dates’ speech­es but also debates were tele­vised under this gener­ic head­ing. The TV guide did not give any infor­ma­tion as to what was to be expect­ed on air or who the guests were.

    Admit­ted­ly, the TV guide for CTV did high­light the can­di­dates’ appear­ances on air – Speech­es of can­di­dates stand­ing for the Cham­ber of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Nation­al Assem­bly of Belarus of the sixth con­vo­ca­tion. How­ev­er, it did not give the can­di­dates’ names or the exact time of their address­es. The TV guide also had a head­ing Election’2016 fol­lowed by incon­spic­u­ous ‘Debates’. Nei­ther this spe­cif­ic type of info­graph­ics nor the head­ing itself, which encom­passed the can­di­dates’ appear­ances on Belarus 3, drew atten­tion to these broad­casts.

    While the TV guides were not pre­cise enough about the can­di­dates and debates, they did not only high­light the titles of fea­ture films and series in bold cap­i­tals but also pro­vid­ed their brief strips with the vir­tu­al names of the pro­tag­o­nists. For exam­ple, this is how the TV guide for Belarus 2 pre­sent­ed DECEIVE ME‑2 series: ‘CRIME. Mur­der Squad of the Munic­i­pal Crim­i­nal Police. The most high-pro­file cas­es are to be looked into… by Cap­tains Fil­ip­pov, Lern­er and Ilyin­sky and Senior Lieu­tenant Strel­niko­va.’ (Belarus 2, 29/08/16.)

    Last but not least, it should be point­ed out that nei­ther the TV sta­tions them­selves, nor the infor­ma­tion por­tal Election’2016 (http://vybory2016.by/), which had got a lot of hype in the state-run media, nor the BelTA spe­cial project called Par­lia­men­tary Election’2016 (http://parlament2016.belta.by/), nor the offi­cial web­site of the Belaru­sian Tele­vi­sion and Radio Com­pa­ny gave com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion about the can­di­dates’ media appear­ances or debates, includ­ing the date, time and names. More­over, none of the can­di­dates’ media appear­ances were uploaded on the web­site of the Belaru­sian Tele­vi­sion and Radio, which deprived the vot­ers who could not watch or lis­ten to these broad­casts of the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get an idea of the can­di­dates’ agen­das.

    To sum it up, the absence of any mean­ing­ful infor­ma­tion­al sup­port of the can­di­dates’ media appear­ances and debates or com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion about who exact­ly was going to speak and when fit­ted per­fect­ly into the gen­er­al trend towards deper­son­alised cov­er­age of the key elec­tion actors in the state-run media. Fur­ther­more, Belarus 3 also showed Sovi­et Russ­ian doc­u­men­taries under the head­ing Election’2016, for exam­ple, a forty-minute-long film fea­tur­ing the con­struc­tion of an old Sovi­et car ZIL on 29 August, 2016. Such a vague head­ing as Election’2016 was mis­lead­ing for the elec­torate, as it hin­dered the vot­ers from form­ing an informed opin­ion of the can­di­dates and their agen­das.

    Inde­pen­dent Media

    The inde­pen­dent media obvi­ous­ly focussed less on organ­i­sa­tion­al details and tech­ni­cal­i­ties of the elec­tion pro­ce­dure. More­over, they tried to avoid the deper­son­alised man­ner of pre­sen­ta­tion. This was par­tic­u­lar­ly true of www.tut.by and the Nar­o­d­na­ja Vola paper. These media out­lets tried to min­imise ref­er­ences to gen­er­alised notions and deper­son­alised actors, such as ‘polit­i­cal par­ties’, a ‘can­di­date’ or the ‘elec­torate’.

    Fol­low­ing the offi­cial reg­is­tra­tion of can­di­dates, www.tut.by began giv­ing a lot of can­di­dates’ names and infor­ma­tion about them. The same can be said of the polit­i­cal par­ties, which were more or less pre­sent­ed under their offi­cial names. The por­tal had a spe­cial video pro­gramme Госць.tut.by, which showed inter­views of the lead­ers of the par­ties par­tic­i­pat­ing in the elec­tion. Each pro­gramme last­ed between 35 and 55 min­utes, the guests being one to three lead­ers of both oppo­si­tion­al and pro-gov­ern­men­tal par­ties. The host nor­mal­ly took a crit­i­cal stance on the par­ties’ agen­das and can­di­dates.

    The online infor­ma­tion por­tal fea­tured the can­di­dates pre­dom­i­nant­ly in a neu­tral tone, with bal­anced pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive assess­ments.

    Unlike www.tut.by, the Nar­o­d­na­ja Vola nation­wide paper offered more polarised assess­ments of the CEC, the gov­ern­ment, the present par­lia­ment, the pres­i­dent, the polling sta­tions, etc., for the most part show­ing them in a neg­a­tive light. At the same time, the paper gave indi­vid­ual can­di­dates main­ly neu­tral cov­er­age.

    The ‘thick’ edi­tion of the Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da v Belorus­sii for a cer­tain mon­i­tored time span did not pub­lish any elec­tion-relat­ed con­tri­bu­tions. When it even­tu­al­ly began writ­ing about some can­di­dates, they received only a neg­li­gi­ble amount of space and the polit­i­cal par­ties were only men­tioned in pass­ing.

    At the ini­tial stage of the par­lia­men­tary cam­paign the region­al inde­pen­dent press, such as the Intex-press and the Hazi­eta Słonim­ska­ja, did not bring the elec­tion in the spot­light, either. Lat­er on, how­ev­er, they quite often fea­tured their local par­lia­men­tary can­di­dates, writ­ing about them neu­tral­ly.

    Assess­ments of the Elec­tion

    Accord­ing to the tra­di­tion that has run for decades, jour­nal­ists work­ing for the state-owned media and their inter­vie­wees assessed the elec­tion pos­i­tive­ly.

    ‘It has been the most lib­er­al elec­tion in the past twen­ty years,’ said the CEC Chair­per­son Lidz­i­ja Jar­mošy­na in Glavny Efir on Belarus 1 on 11 Sep­tem­ber, 2016. The Head of the CIS Observ­er Mis­sion Lebe­dev described the elec­tion as demo­c­ra­t­ic: ‘It was demo­c­ra­t­ic and trans­par­ent. Most impor­tant­ly, it guar­an­teed the cit­i­zens of Belarus the right to free vote.’ (http://www.belta.by/politics/view/lebedev-proshedshie-vybory-stali-svidetelstvom-dvizhenija-belarusi-po-puti-demokratizatsii-209855–2016/).

    The SCO Observ­er Mis­sion described the elec­tion as a mod­el to be used by oth­ers: ‘What we have seen cer­tain­ly qual­i­fies as a mod­el par­lia­men­tary elec­tion.’ (http://www.belta.by/politics/view/missija-nabljudatelej-ot-shos-nazvala-vybory-v-belarusi-obraztsovymi-209817–2016/).

    The state-run media were ambigu­ous in their inter­pre­ta­tions of the posi­tion tak­en by the OSCE/ODIHR Mis­sion.

    For exam­ple, Belaru­sian offi­cials claimed, ‘We have imple­ment­ed all the OSCE/ODIHR rec­om­men­da­tions. There were 75% of trans­par­ent bal­lot box­es and observers were able to see the vote count. They were stand­ing right at the tables were the bal­lots were being count­ed and were allowed to see the pro­ce­dure at every polling sta­tion.’ (Nashi Novosti, 12/09/16.) How­ev­er, a few days lat­er the state-run online infor­ma­tion resource www.belta.by wrote, ‘Lidz­i­ja Jar­mošy­na stat­ed that she had received a pho­to from Star­avilen­ska­ja con­stituen­cy in Min­sk, which was ranked among the most lib­er­al ones, show­ing the backs of the polling sta­tion board count­ing the bal­lots.’ (http://www.belta.by/society/view/ermoshina-nedovolna-chlenami-komissij-kotorye-spinami-zakryli-ot-nabljudatelej-protseduru-podscheta-210558–2016/).

    ‘Belarus has a long way to go to meet the OSCE stan­dards,’ said OSCE PA Ad Hoc Work­ing Group on Belarus Chair Kent Härst­edt. ‘The Belaru­sian author­i­ties have par­tial­ly ful­filled their promis­es. There was progress in some areas, while in oth­ers the same old prac­tices were still at work… We are dis­ap­point­ed at the slow progress. A lot could have been done this year, but it was not.’  (http://news.tut.by/politics/511771.html).

    The Nar­o­d­na­ja Vola inde­pen­dent paper gave voice to inde­pen­dent Belaru­sian observers. For exam­ple, accord­ing to Mr Kalakin, one of the coor­di­na­tors of the cam­paign ‘For Fair Elec­tions’, ‘The offi­cial­ly announced par­lia­men­tary elec­tion returns do not cor­re­spond to the actu­al choice made by vot­ers.’

    Mr Uch­naloŭ, anoth­er coor­di­na­tor of the cam­paign ‘For Fair Elec­tions’, said, ‘There was no trans­paren­cy or objec­tive­ness, the can­di­dates nom­i­nat­ed by the oppo­si­tion­al par­ties faced tough dis­crim­i­na­tion.’ Accord­ing to him, the observers record­ed ‘numer­ous instances when polling sta­tion boards skewed upwards the num­bers of vot­ers who had gone to the polls’ dur­ing the ear­ly vot­ing.

    ‘Bla­tant vio­la­tions were record­ed in all the con­stituen­cies,’ con­firmed Dzia­n­is Sadoŭs­ki, the coor­di­na­tor of the cam­paign ‘The Right to Choose’. (Nar­o­d­na­ja Vola, 13/09/16.)

    Last but not least, the inde­pen­dent online infor­ma­tion resource www.tut.by quot­ed one more opin­ion, ‘US Doubts Fair­ness of Belarus’ Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tion’: The Unit­ed States wel­comes the peace­ful con­duct of the Sep­tem­ber 11 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Belarus. We rec­og­nize some improve­ments in the elec­toral process, and we note that alter­na­tive voic­es will be rep­re­sent­ed in par­lia­ment for the first time in 12 years. Still, the elec­tions fell short of Belarus’ inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tions and com­mit­ments to free and fair elec­tions,’ not­ed John Kir­by, Assis­tant Sec­re­tary and Depart­ment Spokesper­son for the Bureau of Pub­lic Affairs. (http://news.tut.by/politics/511849.html).


    The mode of elec­tion cov­er­age invari­ably prac­ticed by the state-run media for decades leaves no room for any seri­ous engage­ment of the vot­ers in elec­toral cam­paigns. This premise is sup­port­ed both by the deper­son­alised cov­er­age giv­en to can­di­dates and the absence of any suf­fi­cient infor­ma­tion about their media appear­ances dur­ing cam­paigns.

    When tech­ni­cal and orga­ni­za­tion­al details are accen­tu­at­ed and the key elec­tion actors are deper­son­alised, it results in vot­ers’ detach­ment from elec­tions and has a neg­a­tive impact on their polit­i­cal engage­ment.

    Anoth­er tan­gi­ble ele­ment of ‘low-key’ elec­tions is the mar­gin­al­i­sa­tion of the polit­i­cal par­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly those oppos­ing the cur­rent regime, who have no voice in the main­stream media. As par­lia­men­tary elec­tions over­lap with the Olympics, the for­mer are in fact over­shad­owed by sports news.

    As nei­ther the elec­torate nor the expert com­mu­ni­ty dis­cuss the polit­i­cal par­ties’ plat­forms or the can­di­dates’ agen­das, elec­tions are depoliti­cised and deprived of any mean­ing­ful polit­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion.

    By con­trast with the state-run media, the inde­pen­dent ones have a more pro­duc­tive strat­e­gy of elec­tion cov­er­age. They have been more ori­ent­ed towards fea­tur­ing the can­di­dates and their polit­i­cal forces. How­ev­er, the influ­ence of the inde­pen­dent media is not strong enough to have any suf­fi­cient impact on par­lia­men­tary cam­paigns and their out­comes. The atmos­phere of pre­de­ter­mined elec­tion results does not only have its impact on the can­di­dates’ activ­i­ties but also frames the mode of elec­tion cov­er­age in the media.

    The state-owned and inde­pen­dent media prac­tise very dif­fer­ent modes of elec­tion cov­er­age, which becomes par­tic­u­lar­ly evi­dent in their assess­ments of elec­tions after the vot­ing day.

    The mon­i­tor­ing cov­ered Panara­ma (Panora­ma) news pro­gramme on Belarus 1 TV sta­tion; Nashi Novosti (Our News) news pro­gramme on ONT TV sta­tion; Glavny Efir (Most Impor­tant Air) week­ly pro­gramme on Belarus 1 TV sta­tion, Radyjo­fakt (Radio­fact) on the 1st Chan­nel of the Nation­al Radio; news on Radyjo Stal­i­ca radio sta­tion, Naviny. Homiel of the Homiel Region­al TV and Radio Com­pa­ny, Naviny-rehi­jon (Region­al News) of the Mahiloŭ Region­al TV and Radio Com­pa­ny; Vicieb­s­ki Vieśnik. 7 dzion (Vicieb­sk Her­ald. 7 days) week­ly pro­gramme of the Vicieb­sk Region­al TV and Radio Com­pa­ny; www.tut.by and www.belta.by online media; and such print­ed media as the Belarus Segod­nya (Belarus Today), the Nar­o­d­na­ja Vola (People’s Will),  the Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da v Belorus­sii (YCL Truth in Belarus), the Zarya (Dawn) (Brest) and the Mogilevskaya Prav­da (Mahiloŭ Truth); the Hazi­eta Słon­im­ska­ja (Słon­im Paper), the Intex-press and Słon­im­s­ki Vieśnik (Słon­im Her­ald).

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