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  • Norwegian journalists express solidarity with Yauhen Merkis

    Last weekend Norwegian Association of Journalists in Bergen gathered its activists for the conference Hauststormen (Autumn Storm) to discuss working issues and plans for the future. Our fellow journalists are aware of repressions against Belarusian journalists and organize campaigns in their support.

    The three-day meet­ing host­ed as many as 300 peo­ple – both full-time jour­nal­ists and free­lancers who work with Nor­we­gian media.

    Among the par­tic­i­pants were also jour­nal­ists from oth­er coun­tries based in Nor­way at the moment and who for var­i­ous rea­sons can not go to their home­land: Iraq, Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Belarus, and Ukraine.

    “I have a 20-year back­ground in jour­nal­ism, and recent­ly I worked in tele­vi­sion. When the war start­ed in Ukraine, I had to evac­u­ate with my three chil­dren. Of course, I lost my job,” said one of the par­tic­i­pants and a Kharkiv res­i­dent Yev­ge­nia Baboshko.

    In the ten months of the war in Ukraine, Yev­ge­nia met with fel­low media work­ers at the con­fer­ence for the first time. It was a breath of fresh air for her, it was inter­est­ing to learn how fel­low jour­nal­ists work and to adopt their expe­ri­ence, the woman admit­ted. Now the jour­nal­ist is learn­ing the Nor­we­gian lan­guage and hopes to find a job in her field. But Yev­geniya doesn’t want to stay in Nor­way for long: she intends to return to her native city.

    “Nor­we­gian jour­nal­ists are sim­i­lar to the Ukrain­ian ones – socia­ble and live­ly. Of course, it is felt that their asso­ci­a­tion can afford more finan­cial­ly – that makes them more sus­tain­able. Inter­est­ing­ly, this year they even decid­ed to give a prize to free­lancer Per Chris­t­ian Selmer-Ander­ssen. He was in Ukraine when the war start­ed and cre­at­ed some arti­cles for the Nor­we­gian media,” com­ment­ed on the event Yulia Alher­chyk from Belarus.

    Yulia not­ed that Nor­we­gian jour­nal­ists are aware of the events that took place in Belarus after the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and of Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists who are now behind bars.

    “Odd­run Midt­bø, a Nor­we­gian jour­nal­ist, is a very active advo­cate of Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists. By the way, it was thanks to her that I got to the con­fer­ence in Bergen. Her Face­book page is full of posts about Belaru­sian impris­oned jour­nal­ists, and she brought a stack of por­traits of human rights defend­er Ales Biali­ats­ki and jour­nal­ist Yauhen Merkis to the con­fer­ence. When I told the Nor­we­gians about the pecu­liar­i­ties of our work in Belarus and the deten­tion con­di­tions of jour­nal­ists, they were shocked and react­ed very emo­tion­al­ly,” added Yulia.

    Free­lance jour­nal­ist and leader of the EFJ Free­lance Expert Group (FREG) Odd­run Midt­bø said that in 2017 she was in Min­sk and met Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists there. Has felt great inter­est and sym­pa­thy for her Belaru­sian col­leagues ever since.

    “I know that many Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists are in prison. I always ask to dis­cuss these issues at the nation­al and Euro­pean lev­els. Today, I sin­gled out Ales and Yauhen. The first one won the Nobel Peace Prize. And the lat­ter is not only my per­son­al acquain­tance: he is well known to some Scan­di­na­vians,” said Odd­run.

    The next Haust­stor­men will be held in Nor­way in 2024.

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