The decrease of financial support for independent media is taking place at the background of talks about Putin’s hybrid propaganda.
Today, Editor-in-Chief of the website Charter97.org Natallia Radzina has held a press-conference at the Press Club Polska in Warsaw, with regard to the sharp decrease of support to Charter’97 by Poland.
The journalist has stated the following at the press-conference:
- I am representing the oldest Belarusian independent website Charter97.org, which has worked for over 20 years by now. During all this time, the website has performed under the pressure of the Belarusian authorities. The journalists of Charter’97 have been repeatedly sent to prisons, beaten, our equipment was seized, and now the government has even blocked the website in Belarus. In 2010, founder of the website Aleh Biabenin was murdered. The editor’s office in Minsk was demolished, I got into the KGB prison. Later, I managed to flee to Vilnius from under the house arrest. There, we could restore the website’s work.
In 2011, we were invited to work in Warsaw by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today, half of the editorial staff, and there are about 30 of us altogether, work from Warsaw, and the other half continue working in Belarus in the underground. We also have journalists in Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine.
At present, the website Charter97.org is struggling not only with the Lukashenka censorship, but with the Putin propaganda, which is currently feeling pretty much at ease in Belarus. After the occupationof the Crimea, half of Belarusians supported this decision by Russia. It happened because the Russian television, radio, Russian newspapers, and, more recently, Russian websites prevail in Belarus.
Yesterday, I was invited to the Fund of International Solidarity, where they informed me about the decrease of support to Charter’97 five-fold. This in fact puts the website under the threat of closing.
We are grateful to the Government of Poland for all years of supporting the website Charter97.org. It was very cvomfortable to work in Warsaw, because we were not afraid we could be arrested or killed. However, in the current situation we simply don’t know what to do. We cannot return to Belarus where prison is waiting for us. I was charged under the article which envisages 15 years of imprisonment. Many journalists of Charter’97 are also political refugees.
Belarusians badly need alternative, independent, honest information. Before the authorities blocked the website Charter97.org, about 2,5 million people read it on a monthly basis. The website had about 50 million views per day.
Charter’97 has a great number of adherents, who learned how to bypass the block and continue receiving information from the independent source every day. Our audience today makes about 1,5 million visitors and about 30 million pageviews every day. The website has three language versions: English, Belarusian, and Russian. Also, many translations are made from Ukrainian and Polish.
One of the main tasks of the functioning of our website is to inform the Belarusian public about the situation in Poland, the reforms in your country, about the transformation of the state power through free elections. The only relatively free election was held in Belarus in 1994.
It seems weird that financing of one of the key independent website is decreased on the eve of two electoral campaigns. I remind, Belarus is to hold parliamentary and presidential elections this and next year. In the conditions when the informational space of Belarus is controlled by Russia, the destruction of such website as Charter’97 appears the first step towards the occupation of Belarus. They are talking a lot about Putin’s hybrid propaganda, while in the actual fact the decrease of financial aid to the independent media by the United States, the European Union and today, sadly, also Poland, is taking place, - Radzina said.
Answering the questions of the journalists, Natallia Radzina has commented on the “coinsidence” of the visit of Lukashenka’s emissary Mikhail Miasnikovich to Poland and the sharp decrease of financing of Charter97.org.
- Certainly this is a weird coinsidence that I was notified about the decrease of financing for the website Charter97.org when head of the Belarusian illegitimate “parliament” Mikhail Miasnikovich was in Poland with a visit. We all know that the Belarusian authorities have long sought cease of the Polish aid to Charter’97.
I love Poland very much, and I am thankful for an opportunity to work from Warsaw. Both under the previous government, and under the present one, the Polish authorities maintained contacts with the authorities of Belarus, but at the same time supported the Belarusian independent media. I really hope that what is happening today is some mistake. For me, Poland is in the first place a country of Solidarity.”
Natallia Radzina also stressed that the decrease of support for the independent website on the eve of two electoral campaigns in Belarus could be nothing but some misunderstanding.
- It is irrational to reduce aid in view of two upcoming electoral campaigns in Belarus, when the informational space of Belarus today is controlled by Russia.
I will speak with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, and with the Polish Fund of International Solidarity. For me, the most important thing is that Charter97.org should continue working. I hope that the Polish government realizes that today it’s not good to help Lukashenka destroy the Belarusian independent media.
The situation with human rights in Belarus is deteriorating, the persecution of the independent media continues, even right at the moment there is a court trial going on against Editor-in-Chief of the portal tut.by Maryna Zolatava. The authorities conduct searches at the houses of the European Belarus activists, looking for “weapons”. In such situation, the work of the media which remain out of reach of the KGB is very important.
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