The website Charter’97 is turning 20.
Charter97.org started working on September 11, 1998, ten months after the proclamation of the civil initiative Charter’97.
20 years… So many things happened throughout these years, and they have just flown. This is precisely half of my life. Sometimes I ask myself: what is it all for? It was possible to live these years in a different way. To have a peaceful job, a home, an opportunity to live at own motherland, together with family and friends. However, I do realize there was no other way. There’s no place in today’s Belarus where one could hide from the reality and try to live without noticing the ever-present lies, violence, theft and lawlessness.
I came to Charter as a very young journalist in 1998 and realized it was my place and my people. There was something that united us – a strong and uncontrollable desire to break from the rotten swamp of the dictatorship and live in a normal free country.
The subsequent repression, criminal cases, searches, beatings, prison, forced emigration – all this is actually stuff and nonsense, just a proof that we are doing everything right.
The most horrible and irreplaceable of our losses is Aleh Biabenin. The pain will never go away, the memory will last forever and the undertaking that he started will go on.
Some day, when we finally live in a normal free Belarus, I will call the names of all who created the Charter. This will be a very long list of honest and decent people.
And today it makes me happy when young people of 20-25 come to work at the Charter. It’s hard to imagine that, when we started, they have just been born. This is a new generation, which grew under Lukashism, and they long for freedom just like we do. The free Belarus is not just a dream for all of us. This is a goal, which makes us act even under the most unbearable conditions.
For these 20 years, we have acquired millions of readers, both in Belarus and worldwide, and they have become good friends for us. All these years we were walking by one and the same road. We worked for you, and you supported us, doing your best.
When our editor’s office was raided once again in March 2010, the special services officers took away all the equipment. It was you who brought us new computers already on the next day.
I remember, when I was beaten at the Square on December 19, 2010, my colleagues tried to take me to the ambulance vehicle. We needed to somehow get through the solid crowd, standing in front of the House of Government. Then someone said: “This is Charter!”, and the people splitted straightaway, having made a corridor. We were walking through it, and the people applauded… How can this ever be forgotten?
We are really cool, both journalists and readers. Charter is respected in the world. Some years ago I visited “Le Mond” in Paris. French colleagues showed me how their work was organized. They were stunned by the numbers of the readers of our website repeatedly saying “Incroyable!”
Today, when Charter97.org is facing new threats, you responded to our call for help immediately. We are endlessly grateful to everyone who support our website, so that it continued working. “United in action” - this is a principle on which Charter’97 was created.
Of course, 20 years is a huge term. But we are still at the rally. At the rally, which, I believe, will inevitably lead us to our dream, our goal.
Natallia Radzina, Editor-in-Chief of Charter97.org
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