The Belarusian authorities do not stop their struggle against independent mass media.
Such a statement has been made in an interview to charter97.org website by a journalist of “Gazeta Wyborcza” Andrzej Poczobut.
- Recently a pressure on independent journalists has been increased. The director of “Radio Racyja” was not allowed to enter Belarus. KGB officers tried to recruit a Brest journalist, charter97.org website is blocked, Mahilyou-based journalists are persecuted for cooperation with Belsat TV channel. What could be a reason for that?
- I think it is a permanent process. I would not agree that any stepping-up is taken place. A fight against the Internet is taking place “in the Belarusian climate” all the time. The authorities are looking for different ways to influence it. In particular, a fight against the mass media which broadcast from abroad, is taking place. Actually, we are witnessing a manifestation of the Belarusian “stability”. That is, the situation with the freedom of speech in Belarus is consistently bad.
- Is it related to the events in Ukraine?
- On the one hand, the events in Ukraine have frightened Lukashenka. It seems to me that there is a different danger in that. A very powerful pro-Russian trend has developed in the society, and it is not controlled by the authorities and is a result of the foreign propaganda, which is poured on the Belarusian society through Russian mass media. And it seems to me it’s the most important thing that has frightened the Belarusian authorities, and they do not know what to do in this situation.
There have always been official warnings for work without “official accreditation.” I think there are already no journalists in Hrodna who contribute to the mass media based in Poland, who had not been summoned to the Prosecutor’s office. And now it’s time for Mahilyou. The major threat to my mind is this “powerful pro-Russian trend”, which is not the result of the activities of the Belarusian governmental mass media, but a result of the activities by Russian media, which are not controlled by Lukashenka’s regime. And the Belarusian authorities do not know what to do with this situation obviously.
- What should journalists, the civil society and the world community do in this situation?
- The situation is very simple here. Those who are situated in Belarus and work in the mass media should realize they could be clamped down on. And when a person realizes that, he or she is prepared. It is worse when there is no such understanding, and a person could be affected, there could be a sad finale. As you have said, recruitment and so on. It’s the most dangerous thing. It seems to me the decision is up to a person. As for large-scale politics and some response from abroad…. In such conditions when everyone is looking at Ukraine, when such horrible things are happening there, there is war, people are killed, the foreign state (I mean Russia) supplies arms, sends its soldiers to Ukraine, this conflict is a threat to security of all neighbours. It is a central world event now.
Against this background Lukashenka, who commits some petty things, is lost from the scope of the attention from the West, as far as it is compared with Ukrainian events. I think that he will use that, in order to tighten the screws inside the country. For today the screws are so tight as far as opposition and civil activists are concerned, that it’s hard for me to imagine what could happen next, except mass imprisonments for long terms.