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  • E‑NEWSLETTER: MASS MEDIA IN BELARUS Bulletin #5(45) (October – December 2015)

    “Changes in Belarus always follow ‘one step forward – two steps backwards’ principle… We don’t need cosmetic changes. We need systemic reforms of Belarusian media legislation…”, – Mikhail Yanchuk, Deputy Chairperson, Belarusian Association of Journalists.


    The Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion was held in Belarus on Octo­ber 16, 2015.  

    The post-elec­tion peri­od didn’t bring any sig­nif­i­cant changes to the sit­u­a­tion in the mass media field in the coun­try.

    The imple­men­ta­tion of dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies in rela­tion to inde­pen­dent news­pa­pers con­tin­ued dur­ing the recent sub­scrip­tion cam­paign. At the same time, the Belaru­sian offi­cial author­i­ties car­ried on the prac­tice of fund­ing the state-owned media from the state bud­get with­out any ten­ders, pro­vid­ing them with admin­is­tra­tive sup­port and oth­er pref­er­ences.

    A new wave of admin­is­tra­tive pros­e­cu­tion of jour­nal­ists for their coop­er­a­tion with for­eign mass media with­out accred­i­ta­tion was among the most alarm­ing events in the peri­od under review. For the time being, it is still unknown if the new police reports against jour­nal­ists in Homiel region have been a local ini­tia­tive or declare the return of pre­vi­ous repres­sive poli­cies at the nation­al lev­el.

    The pre­sen­ta­tion of Nobel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture to a Belaru­sian writer Svi­at­lana Alek­siye­vich was in the focus of media atten­tion at the end of 2015. How­ev­er, the Belaru­sian state TV-chan­nels didn’t broad­cast the award­ing cer­e­mo­ny at that.




    The sub­scrip­tion cam­paign at the end of 2015 showed unequal con­di­tions of eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty for the state-owned and non-state media.

    On the one hand, the ‘Bel­posh­ta’ state monop­o­list press dis­trib­u­tor refused to include a num­ber of non-state media out­lets (‘Gaze­ta Slonim­skaya’, ‘Intex-press’, ‘SNPlus. Svo­bod­nye Novosti Plus’ etc) into its sub­scrip­tion cat­a­logue.  

    On the oth­er hand, the admin­is­tra­tive resource was broad­ly used for sub­scrib­ing read­ers to the state press.

    Thus, the Admin­is­tra­tion of Lenin­sky Munic­i­pal Dis­trict of Min­sk addressed to the heads of local­ly reg­is­tered orga­ni­za­tions to arrange sub­scrip­tion to “the main nation­al and munic­i­pal print­ed peri­od­i­cal edi­tions”, includ­ed in the spe­cial list, and report upon the achieved results. The local author­i­ties explained their appeal by the begin­ning of sub­scrip­tion cam­paign for the first half-year of 2016 and the need “to ensure cor­rect inform­ing of cit­i­zens about social and eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment of Belarus”.

    Accord­ing to the mahilyowspring.org human rights Web-resource, Mahilou fac­to­ry work­ers were urged to sub­scribe to the local state-owned press. They were giv­en tem­plates of requests to keep a part of their wages for sub­scrip­tion.

    The man­age­ment of ‘Krychautse­mentshyfer’ (Krychau, Mahilou region) Pub­lic Cor­po­ra­tion ordered the heads of depart­ments to arrange their sub­or­di­nates’ sub­scrip­tion to the ‘con­trolled’ peri­od­i­cal edi­tions with indi­ca­tion of their titles and the num­ber of copies to be sub­scribed to.



    The Belarus Law ‘On the Nation­al Bud­get for 2016’ was adopt­ed on Decem­ber 30, 2015. It pro­vides for the issuance of around EUR 45 mil­lion (900 120 843.0 thou­sand Br) for financ­ing the state-owned media in 2016.

    Among oth­er, the bud­getary fund­ing includes around EUR 36.6 mil­lion (734 815 075.0 thou­sand Br) for TV and radio broad­cast­ing, around EUR 3.5 mil­lion (69 154 793.0 thou­sand Br) for the peri­od­i­cal press and pub­lish­ing hous­es, and around EUR 4.7 mil­lion (96 150 975.0 thou­sand Br) for ‘oth­er issues in the mass media field’.  

    The fund­ing is pro­vid­ed with­out ten­ders at that. The list of 26 state-owned news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines for fund­ing from the nation­al bud­get in 2016 was defined by a gov­ern­ment res­o­lu­tion No.966 of Novem­ber 19, 2015.



    The pros­e­cu­tion of jour­nal­ists on admin­is­tra­tive charges for their mate­ri­als in the for­eign media was resumed at the end of 2015.

    On Decem­ber 24, 2015, a police report was made in rela­tion to a jour­nal­ist Larysa Shchyrako­va from Homiel. It was com­piled in her absence by Homiel Depart­ment of Inter­nal Affairs. (The free­lance reporter was on hol­i­days at the moment.) Accord­ing to the police report, the jour­nal­ist was accused of pro­duc­ing a TV-report, ded­i­cat­ed to the prob­lems of a for­mer fos­ter-child from the orphan­age in Uryt­s­ki set­tle­ment, Homiel region. (The TV footage was pre­sent­ed on ‘Bel­sat’ TV chan­nel.)

    On Decem­ber 28, 2015, two police reports for break­ing arti­cle 22.9, part 2 of Belarus Code on Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es were drawn up in rela­tion to anoth­er jour­nal­ist from Homiel, Kas­tus Zhuk­ous­ki. The reports were made in the journalist’s absence by offi­cers from Kalinkavichy and Kar­ma Dis­trict Depart­ments of Inter­nal Affairs (Homiel region). The police offi­cers claimed against broad­cast­ing of two ‘ille­gal­ly pro­duced’ TV-reports by Kas­tus Zhuk­ous­ki on ‘Bel­sat’ TV chan­nel.

    The admin­is­tra­tive pros­e­cu­tion against Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists for their coop­er­a­tion with for­eign media with­out accred­i­ta­tion start­ed in April 2014.The Belaru­sian author­i­ties start­ed to accuse the jour­nal­ists of break­ing reg­u­la­tions on pro­duc­tion and (or) dis­tri­b­u­tion of mass media prod­ucts (arti­cle 22.9, part 2 of Belarus Code on Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es).

    There were reg­is­tered 10 cas­es of bring­ing jour­nal­ists to legal lia­bil­i­ty for break­ing the arti­cle in 2014 and 28 cas­es of pros­e­cut­ing jour­nal­ists on the admin­is­tra­tive charges with­in the peri­od since Jan­u­ary till August 2015.The sit­u­a­tion improved after the Pres­i­dent A. Lukashen­ka had promised ‘to exam­ine the sit­u­a­tion’ dur­ing his inter­view to jour­nal­ists of inde­pen­dent mass media on August 4, 2015. Con­se­quent­ly, none of admin­is­tra­tive cas­es against jour­nal­ists for break­ing arti­cle 22.9, part 2 of Belarus Code on Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es were filed since the end of August till Decem­ber 24, 2015.



    On Octo­ber 9, 2015, the OSCE Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Free­dom of the Media Dun­ja Mija­tović con­grat­u­lat­ed Svi­at­lana Alek­sievich, a Belaru­sian writer and jour­nal­ist, for win­ning the Nobel Prize in Lit­er­a­ture:

    “The brave voice of Alek­sievich, rec­og­nized by the Nobel jury, has great­ly con­tributed to the plu­ral­ism and diver­si­ty of opin­ions on issues of recent his­to­ry,” Mija­tović said. “Her tire­less efforts serve as a remark­able exam­ple for inde­pen­dent and inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists in Belarus and beyond.”

    “This award is a recog­ni­tion of the indis­pens­able role inves­tiga­tive and coura­geous writ­ing and jour­nal­ism has in our soci­ety,” Mija­tović added.

    The Free­dom House human rights orga­ni­za­tion (USA) placed Belarus on the list of coun­tries with non-free Inter­net in its ‘Free­dom on the Net’ annu­al report.

    The report embraces the peri­od since June 1, 2014 till May 31, 2015. While describ­ing the cur­rent trends in the Belaru­sian Inter­net seg­ment, Free­dom House high­light­ed the recent amend­ments to the Belarus Mass Media law as well as oth­er legal mea­sures, which were intro­duced by the author­i­ties to broad­en their pos­si­bil­i­ties to restrict crit­i­cal con­tent on the Web.

    More­over, the block­ing of access to Web-sites of inde­pen­dent media, the rein­force­ment of admin­is­tra­tive pros­e­cu­tion against inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists, among oth­er, for their work with­out accred­i­ta­tion, and the adop­tion of pro­vi­sions, aimed at restrict­ing access to Tor and anonymiz­ers were men­tioned in the ‘Free­dom on the Net-2015’ coun­try report on Belarus.

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