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  • Belarus Journalists Meet EU Politicians to Raise Issues of Belarusian Media Sphere

    Members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists Volha Chaychyts and Larysa Shchyrakova have visited Paris and Brussels where they met with European politicians and journalists, to tell about the real situation in the media sphere, to draw attention to the prosecution of Belarusian journalists and to find potential solutions to the issue. The visit was organized by Syndicat national des journalists (SNJ), Le Syndicat national des journalistes CGT (SNJ-CGT), l'Union syndicale des journalistes CFDT, with the support of the European Federation of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and BAJ.

    Dur­ing the vis­it, the jour­nal­ists had meet­ings with politi­cians and offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tives of EU struc­tures and France – rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, the Office on Neigh­bor­hood Pol­i­cy, the East­ern Part­ner­ship Pro­gram, the office of the Coun­cil of Europe, and deputies of the Nation­al Assem­bly of France.

    With­in the vis­it, there were orga­nized round-table dis­cus­sions and press con­fer­ences, meet­ings with French and Bel­gian jour­nal­ists, mem­bers and lead­ers of numer­ous asso­ci­a­tions and jour­nal­is­tic orga­ni­za­tions.

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    Larysa Shchyrakova and Volha Chaychyts met with the French deputy Christophe Lejeune, and with Dominique Pradalié, a representative of the French trade union of journalists SNJ, Hakima Bounemoura from CFDT, and Pablo Aiquel from SNJ-CGT.

    Larysa Shcyrako­va and Vol­ha Chay­chyts con­tribute to the TV chan­nel Bel­sat, so they had a lot to tell regard­ing their pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ties: pres­sure, con­tin­u­ous judi­cial pros­e­cu­tion, huge fines, deten­tions and inter­rup­tions when gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion, threats to take away chil­dren, unground­ed per­se­cu­tion by offi­cers of court, psy­cho­log­i­cal attack­ing and uncon­cealed sur­veil­lance.

    The jour­nal­ists told about the gen­er­al sit­u­a­tion with the free­dom of speech. In par­tic­u­lar, they men­tioned inter­rup­tions in the work of the TV chan­nel Bel­sat, block­ing of the web­sites charter97.org and belaruspartisan.org at the begin­ning of the year, crim­i­nal cas­es against blog­gers, and the BelTA case.

    The free­dom of speech is nar­row­ing along­side with the increas­ing sup­port for Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka on behalf of Euro­pean politi­cians, when no tough demands are brought for­ward to the head of the state cur­rent­ly.

    The nation­al mech­a­nisms in Belarus do not help to defend the jour­nal­ists: the court and the law enforce­ment sys­tems do not work in their favor, the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court denies that there is any vio­la­tion of the jour­nal­ists’ rights.

    A meeting at the office of Reporters without Borders

    “In a sit­u­a­tion as such a pres­sure from Euro­pean politi­cians on Belaru­sian author­i­ties would be log­i­cal, but this does not hap­pen. We talked to politi­cians off the record, so I can sum up for you the gen­er­al mes­sage,” tells Vol­ha Chay­chyts. “As the Euro­pean offi­cials explain, the new strat­e­gy accounts for that Europe had already tried the way of putting for­ward demands and sanc­tions against Belaru­sian offi­cials. But this led to even big­ger iso­la­tion of Belarus, more prox­im­i­ty and deep­er polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic depen­dence on Rus­sia.

    A meeting at the office of the Council of Europe

    In that case, the EU did not have any pos­si­bil­i­ty to influ­ence what was going on in the coun­try. The episodes of thaw with prin­ci­pled demands did not give results, either. Because, meet­ing the demands would mean for the author­i­ties cre­ation of inse­cure con­di­tions for them­selves.

    The main tasks for the Euro­pean politi­cians is to estab­lish con­tacts and con­nec­tions, to have at least in future a pos­si­bil­i­ty to influ­ence democ­ra­ti­za­tion of the coun­try and grad­u­al­ly, step by step, to build up their sphere of influ­ence.

    The politi­cians remark that the head of Belarus wel­comes them with an enthu­si­asm nev­er expressed before. They are ready to meet halfway, to respond with sup­port, includ­ing finan­cial one, to state struc­tures, insti­tutes and orga­ni­za­tions.

    EU politi­cians clear­ly see the state of democ­ra­cy and free­dom of speech in Belarus, but remark that anoth­er dec­la­ra­tion of demands is a way to nowhere, anoth­er wall against engag­ing the coun­try into the Euro­pean space. So, these are Euro­pean offi­cials who plan a num­ber of meet­ings, edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams, financ­ing of numer­ous projects, and they hope that thanks to the pro­grams they will be able to change the world­view of the same offi­cials who have influ­ence in Belarus.”

    A meeting at the press club in Brussels

    When meet­ing their col­leagues, the jour­nal­ists dis­cussed what the jour­nal­is­tic com­mu­ni­ty could to hold the issue of Belarus on the agen­da, so that the ques­tion of Belaru­sian and Euro­pean rela­tions were wide­ly dis­cussed in both Euro­pean mass media and soci­ety, and so that gen­uine inter­est appeared to what is going on in Belarus.

    The press con­fer­ences in Paris and Brus­sels were of high inter­est for Euro­pean jour­nal­ists, the issues of Belaru­sian media were dis­cussed in press.

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