19 December 2018, Wednesday, 7:33
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Luka’s Junta Turned Out Powerless

11
MAXIM VINIARSKI
PHOTO: RADIO LIBERTY

Charter’97 call the things by their proper names, without holding back, without twisting round.

I discovered Charter’97 for myself in 2000. Of course I heard about it before, but it was just then that I accidentally got hold of an homonymous informational bulletin and a no-name video tape.

A newspaper A3 sheet could beat any thick newspaper with regard to sincerity. As for the “Unusual Concert” video tape, showing video shots from the Freedom March, it was like an electric shock. I was there, I participated in that action consciously, and I saw for the very first time how it all can be shown from a different angle. Not like a short newspiece, but like a legend, which is to be remembered eternally.

The songs of our Belarusian epoch. Our independence. And the video. Batons. Shields. Paddy wagons. Special policemen. And the people who did not surrender. Here it is – the truth.

Of course, there is nothing new about it, but back then, when I watched this tape, I realized it wasn’t just a one-time act for me, but permanent responsibility. Forever. You are the one who should bear responsibility for your country. It’s impossible to defend it without you, and even if it works this way, it won’t be your country anymore. Just your place of residence. And this means that your place is among the defenders of independence and freedom.

Little time passed, and Charter took its permanent place in my browser bookmarks. Not only for me, but for hundreds of thousands of people it was extremely important to get access to an open and fair view of what was happening in the country. And we have had it for more than 20 years by now.

Many things have happened throughout these years. The life of the website founder Aleh Biabenin was brutally disrupted. They ousted the editorial office from the country. They blocked the website in Belarus.

Luka’s junta turned out powerless. Everyone needs information, friends and enemies. Even those media who quietly rejoiced blocking of Charter, and got too far in their self-censorship, need information. As it’s just half of the deed – to provide information about a certain fact (not everyone manage to do it though), but to tell the whole truth about something – one could end in a remand prison for this. Here, those who have nothing to lose help. Those who could get to jail here. They call the things by their proper names, without holding back, without twisting round. Without pretending there’s some freedom of speech here.

Their informational front is beating just like a heart. All the time, beat by beat. Regardless of anything. Our hope is in that sound. I am grateful it’s still there.

Maxim Viniarski



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