22 September 2018, Saturday, 5:13
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The Work of Charter-97 is under Threat

111
NATALLIA RADZINA

The situation is critical. We need your help.

Dear readers!

On 11 September 2018 the site Charter97.org celebrates its 20th anniversary. Those years were important in the history of the country. A lot has been done, a lot remains to be done. Unfortunately, it’s not the time for jubilee celebrations.

All these years we tried not to bother you with our problems. On our own, we have been getting out of such abysses, that it still hurts to think about it.

Over 20 years of work we went through a lot: criminal cases, searches, arrests of journalists, tortures in the KGB prison, forced emigration. In September 2010 the founder of the site Oleg Bebenin was murdered.

Since January 24, 2018 authorities are trying to block us in Belarus, the website is also being blocked the site in some regions of Russia. Recently, journalists of the site were receiving the death threats.

How do we get through it? I thought about this question for a long time and it seems that I found the answer. We have always been saved by you, by our readers, by your solidarity and support. We understand that we are working for you, for millions of our readers. Even when it was completely unbearable, we still could find the strength and continued the work.

Today we are facing a new challenge. The blocking of Charter97.org in Belarus in a strange way coincided with the fact that we were denied assistance by international foundations that are supposed to support independent media of Belarus. In the same strange way at that time EU's financial assistance to the dictatorial regime of Lukashenka significantly increased. Only recently, within the framework of EU technical assistance, the dictatorship has received more than hundreds of millions of euros.

Independent media in Belarus were not as important for the democratic West as, for example, the dogs of Belarusian customs officers. Not so long ago we learnt that the European Union would allocate grant aid to the Belarusian customs in the amount of 130 thousand euros to strengthen the cynological service.

This is only a small eloquent example of what has long been a trend. Foundations that claim to support democracy in fact most actively support dictatorships. Charter97 website, for example, for all 20 years of its work, has never received any help from the European Commission (!). The same situation is with the majority of independent media in Belarus, although it is known that GONGO (government-organized non-governmental organizations) cooperating with the authorities receive it regularly.

The paradox is that the drastic reduction in aid to independent media occurs amid high-profile public statements about the need to counter Putin's propaganda as an integral part of the hybrid war. And what if not independent media delivers today the words of truth to the Belarusians in the conditions of the domination of a lying Russian television and amoral Lukashenka’s propaganda? But no, bureaucrats do not want to notice this, and independent journalists in the post-Soviet space often remain alone in a real confrontation with evil.

In Ukraine, before the occupation of the Crimea and the invasion of the eastern regions, there was also a cleansing of the information field commissioned by Kremlin and conducted by Yanukovych’s clique.

We know that the Belarusian authorities have long demanded Western countries to stop supporting independent media in Belarus. Perhaps, sharp reduction in aid has happened because the West started to cooperate with the regime?

In recent years, Charter97.org was supported by Poland and Lithuania. And we are infinitely grateful to them for this help and the opportunity to work. But unfortunately this assistance cannot fully cover our expenses. Due to the blocking of the site in Belarus and Russia, we have also largely lost the possibility of financing.

The budget of the site is already extremely limited. Salaries of journalists are small, we barely have enough money to rent housing in Warsaw and pay for other basic needs. And in general Charter97 is not a place for earning. It's rather a mission and an attempt to do something, change something in our country.

When the blocking of the site Charter97.org began in January, we warned that the attack will continue and all other independent media in Belarus will also suffer. Unfortunately, many of them did not believe us hoping that, perhaps, they will avoid it. However, they haven’t been lucky. Due to the lack of journalistic solidarity within the country, the authorities have moved to a complete cleansing of the information field: draconian amendments to the media law were adopted, freelancers were persecuted, pogroms and searches were carried out in the editorial offices and apartments of even „moderate” journalists, new criminal cases were instituted against editors and bloggers, the last independent newspapers began to face lawsuits.

They cannot crash Charter-97 like they crash journalists inside the country, so the dictatorship uses all its capabilities and agents of influence to strangle financially Belarusian media working from abroad.

Today, due to a drastic reduction in funding, the work of Сharter97.org site is under threat. And this happens despite the fact that the website is the leader among Belarusian independent media and has a huge audience in Belarus, the region and the world. If today we do not save our site, then I am sure that even the small support for independent media in Belarus, which is still taking place, will completely stop tomorrow. And I'm sure that there are such plans.

Recently I was shocked that in the application form of one Western foundation a question appeared: „How will your central and local authorities react to your project?”. That is, foundations supporting democracy, ask the dictatorial authorities for permission to help independent media. Unbelievable!

Due to the difficult financial situation, we are compelled to ask for help, dear readers.

Of course, we will continue to knock on all doors, asking for help, explaining how important for Belarus free information is. But first and foremost independent media are needed by the Belarusians themselves.

I understand that the situation is difficult for everyone today. But we can change it only if we are together. For 20 years, the site prioritized the coverage of problems of Belarusian citizens - political prisoners, people who are repressed, unfairly dismissed, deprived and humiliated by the authorities.

If Belarusians do not support their media, they will have to read someone else’s media.

We will be grateful to you for any financial and technical assistance.

DONATION VIA PAYPAL:


MULTI-CURRENCY ACCOUNT FOR ASSISTANCE:

Bank's name: Bank Millennium S.A.

Address: ul. Stanislawa Zaryna, 2A, 02-593, Warszawa

IBAN: PL 97 1160 2202 0000 0002 1671 1123

SWIFT: BIGBPLPW

Name of the account holder: Fundacja “KARTA ‘97”

Purpose/title of payment: Donation for statuary aims


You can contact us by the e-mail charter97@gmail.com

Natallia Radzina, editor-in-chief of Charter97.org