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  • Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: “Strong democracy cannot be built without independent media”

    The leader of Belarusian democratic forces Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya issued a statement to be presented at the Free Journalism Forum in Vilnius (Lithuania), in which she addressed Belarusian journalists. In the video, she declared her commitment to critical comments and mentioned those behind bars.

    The politi­cian recalled the dis­ap­pear­ance of Dmit­ry Zavad­ski twen­ty-two years ago and the mur­der of Verani­ka Charkasa­va in 2004:


    “In Belarus, the regime has always kept a bean on prin­ci­pled jour­nal­ists. How­ev­er, twen­ty-eight years were not enough for it to cleanse and take con­trol of the media realm. The truth has always found its way through the pro­pa­gan­da avalanche, despite repres­sion and con­stant pres­sure on the media.”

    Ms. Tsikhanouskaya thanked reporters and assured them that she appre­ci­at­ed both sup­port­ive and crit­i­cal pub­li­ca­tions:

    Despite the scale of the repres­sion, you did not give up. On the con­trary, you tripled your efforts – so that your col­leagues would be released as soon as pos­si­ble, so that Belaru­sians would not be fooled again with tales of sta­bil­i­ty or imag­i­nary ene­mies


    Svi­at­lana Tsikhanouskaya named some jour­nal­ists who are cur­rent­ly in prison: Yahor Martsi­novich, Mary­na Zolata­va, Kat­siary­na Andreye­va, Sasha Ivulin, Ihar Losik, Kse­nia Lut­ski­na.

    “Thou­sands of Belaru­sians are fac­ing jail time for print­ing and dis­creet­ly dis­trib­ut­ing hon­est news,” said the leader of the demo­c­ra­t­ic forces. “They share impor­tant infor­ma­tion with inde­pen­dent media and pub­lic orga­ni­za­tions. In a time of attacks on the media, peo­ple have come to your aid. And I’m grate­ful to each and every one of those cit­i­zens”.

    Accord­ing to the politi­cian, “these dark times will end some­day.” And “the spir­it, the yearn­ing for truth, and the respon­si­bil­i­ty for our future will stay with us and help us build a free coun­try”.

    Svi­at­lana Tsikhanouskaya thanked the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists for fight­ing for the rights of its mem­bers, the Lithuan­ian Union of Jour­nal­ists – for its invalu­able sup­port and sol­i­dar­i­ty, and inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions – for their assis­tance to media and civic activists.

    “Today, when the war has bro­ken out both in the infor­ma­tion realm and in real life, when the Belaru­sians risk not only to go to jail, but to lose their homes, to lose their inde­pen­dence, it is of para­mount impor­tance for us to keep Belarus on the agen­da,” said the leader of the demo­c­ra­t­ic forces. “Every crime com­mit­ted by the Lukashen­ka regime, be it against Belaru­sians or the peo­ple of Ukraine, must be exposed and inves­ti­gat­ed for future tri­als.

    She admit­ted, how­ev­er, that “the strug­gle for free­dom and inde­pen­dence has been longer, hard­er and more gru­el­ing than we had imag­ined”:

    “I admire every per­son who per­se­veres in this strug­gle, who does not break down or give up. I know that the cur­rent cir­cum­stances seem rather dis­cour­ag­ing. But thanks to your efforts, we have a chance to give our coun­try back to the peo­ple”.

    The Free Jour­nal­ism Forum, orga­nized by the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists and the Lithuan­ian Union of Jour­nal­ists, takes place on Decem­ber 1 in Vil­nius. Among the event par­tic­i­pants are politi­cians, jour­nal­ists, human rights activists, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions.

    You can fol­low the forum online on YouTube:

     — in Russ­ian https://youtu. be/WbHG0t7MJnQ

    — in Eng­lish https://youtu. be/gjprn8MeYXg

    — in Lithuan­ian https://youtu. be/jQPOpl9Ze8Q

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