Don’t be idle.
Charter97.org awarded the young video blogger Stsipan Sviatlou, known as NEXTA, with the National Victar Ivashkevich Human Rights Prize. He won in two categories: "For Courage in Art" and "For Personal Courage".
After the awarding, the blogger told in an interview with Charter97.org about his activity and gave advice to the young generation of Belarusians.
— Please, tell us about yourself.
- I studied for four years at the Belarusian Humanitarian Lyceum, which is banned in Belarus. After school I entered the university in Katowice, film and television production. This year I finish my undergraduate studies and then I'll probably move to Warsaw.
— Why and when have you decided to create your channel on YouTube?
- At first, NEXTA was a musical project. We wrote the song "No Choice", then the song against the "parasite" decree followed. As a result, our band disbanded, because we went to different cities after school.
In general, I've been doing video content since childhood. I made funny videos for my relatives' birthdays. Then I decided to accumulate all the trash of Lukashenka's Belarus. We have enough media, but I wanted to make a set of events in the country. I offered the format of news of the week. My friends used to say: "Oh, nobody cares about it, it's everywhere". Our plan was as follows: plus ten subscribers per issue. If we have a dozen subscribers, we will continue. But when it all started, he had 25 thousand subscribes, then 50 thousand, and then here we go. I didn't understand what was going on then. It turns out that there was demand for such content in the Belarusian media space. Belarusians lacked independent information, because Belarusians had no other alternative to BT in video terms. There was only Belsat, which was not very developed at that time.
By the way, many people think that I have launched the channel on the wave of "parasite" protests, but I started doing reviews much earlier. In Katowice, my friends and I recorded videos where Ukrainians and Russians tried to guess Belarusian words.
- You said NEXTA was your band's original name. What is the origin of it and do your former colleagues have any claims that you perform under this nickname?
- There are no claims (smiles). Yes, and I was the first to offer this name. It was back in the lyceum times. I remember our first concert in an underpass and earned or first thousand Belarusian rubles. However, it's 10 kopecks now (laughs). As for the origin of NEXTA - it's a play of words and meanings: the next generation and the Belarusian word "nehta" - a mysterious image, someone who thinks the same way as I do.
— Why have you decided to deal with a political sphere?
- Because the young aren't very interested in politics It's really disappointing. If you're not interested in politics, tomorrow the politics will be interested in you, and you won't know what to do with it. The latest example: a student stroke at the monument of a policeman. I read an interview where the family says, "No, we are not interested in politics!" But if we were, it might not have happened. We need to be interested in politics, read the news. Not every day, but at least once a week to watch what is happening in the country. That's why I offered a weekly format. I try to publish everything that concerns our society.
I've noticed that the youth of Belarus is changing. Guys of 17-18 years old are no longer afraid of being expelled and so on. In the era of the Internet, they see how people live in other countries: they are free and earn decent salaries. They can travel to other countries for the weekend, are not afraid to express their opinion, if there are things they do not like. Of course, some young people choose to leave Belarus, but I think that they should make as much effort as possible to stay in the country. Or at least not to be idle but to continue being useful for their country. Let it be information like I post, because I can't return because of persecution.
— Can it be stated that you’ve decided to speak for your generation?
- Well, it sounds dramatic, but I want to reach as many people as possible. By the way, Russians and Ukrainians are also interested in what is going on here.
— How do your parents treat your activity given the fact that you’ve, as such, declared the war against head of Interior Ministry Shunevich?
- Ihar Shunevich declared war against himself. Because he damages himself when he detains people with no good reason, meddles in matters that doesn't concern him, and hushes up what is happening in the system. And I'm just telling the truth about the Belarusian police. It's all documented and videos are available.
As for my parents, they treat my work well. My father has always supported me. Sometimes he helps with advice. We discuss different topics. Of course, my mother wants me to be silent. But it's impossible being engaged in such activities.
—Please, recall our readers why you cannot return to Belarus.
- In 2017, I started actively posting news videos. In February 2018, I arrived in Minsk for a vacation. As soon as I left, my mother told me two days after my departure our house was searched. I thought it was a joke. But it was true. There were witnesses, our neighbors; my laptop and old camera were confiscated. Probably, they thought I was filming something secret in Belarus (smiles). As a result, I wrote several appeals and asked them to explain what it was. Some of them answered that it was not their competence, others wrote that something of this kind happened, but we could not tell. And then the "war" with BT TV channel started in 2018. And against the background of this war, I shot a video about the pressure on me. I told that even six months later there was no information about the search. Just a couple of days after that, I received an official answer that there was no case against me and I could officially go to Belarus. But this is a siren’s call...
— If I’m not mistaken, you did not show your face before the video about the search.
- My anonymity was rather conventional. I used to show my face in old videos. For example, in the video, where Ukrainians translate Belarusian words. Therefore, the police knew who I was. And my VK account was bound to videos. But our special services, though they are worthless, learned about me right after the song "No Choice". It was before the presidential elections in 2015. They came to my school, where I studied before the lyceum, and began to seek information. My mother works at school, so she knew everything. They started to learn how I studied, to learn my characteristics...
- In addition to the channel on YouTube you also have a popular Telegram channel, where you often post sensational facts used even by the media. In one of the interviews you said that sometimes police officers told you about some events. Why do they do this?
- Yeah, I launched Telegram channel last fall. On my friends' advice. As soon as it was launched, two thousand people signed up in one day! Then people began to send information, I chose and published the best ones. Over time, people started sending more and more, and it became one of the sources of insider information. People realized that it was anonymous and after making a problem public, it is usually solved. Officials start doing something.
Why do policemen inform me? First, because there are normal people. They write that it's impossible to work in this system, but there is no place to go. Remember at least Mikhail Hramyka, a policeman who was fired and served a 24-hour arrest; he was defending Kurapaty. Many of them are adequate if they are alone, but when they are brought together, it is unclear what is going on. This is how the system works. Why do they agree to this? It is trivial; they don't have a real trade union to deal with their affairs and problems.
Second, they realize that all this is anonymous, although Shunevich is threatening to find the source of the "leak". But it's impossible, because these reports are available in all departments. It turns out that crimes are committed inside the system almost daily.
- Do you receive any sensational news that you do not published because you have no confirmation?
- Yeah, I have enough of it. But I look for proofs, photos, preferably from two sources. For example, there was information that the son of a high rank official of the Interior Ministry of Belarus was among those detained in Vitsebsk who drew drug-related graffiti. I checked the information, but the source replied that friends had told. Therefore, I did not publish the information.
- You probably know there's a whole troll factory in Russia. Have you noticed any weird activity under your videos or on social networks?
- I didn't notice much of it. They are most likely focus on smaller channels with a thousand or 500 subscribers. But I'm sure there are some BRYU trolls. But in any case it cannot go far in Belarus, because there are few of those who support Lukashenka's position. Nobody believes in state propaganda anymore, people see the situation. Therefore, even if some kind of trolling factory is created in our country, they will simply be laughed at by the absolute majority of ordinary people.
— Does it mean a complete defeat of state-owned media?
- Yeas! I think they have no chance, because they miss arguments for people to believe them. They miss the key point - the truth.
- The Charter-97 Prize was awarded by Zbigniew Bujak, the legendary leader of the underground Solidarity movement, she fought for freedom in Poland. Each country had its own struggle for freedom. How do you think it may be in Belarus?
- Our country is a peculiar one, despite the fact that we have Ukraine with a fiery temperament, imperial Russia and Poland, which actively stood for its rights. Things differ here a little bit. But if something blatant happens, as it was to the decree on "parasites", then people protest. In other words, people spoke out, and these protests forced the authorities to retreat.
And in general, if you remember everything, the Belarusians are quite active in fighting against the regime - these are Stop Petrol actions and applause protests, for which Lukashenka was awarded the Shnobel Prize. The Belarusians have a protest ground. We just need to increase this protest core so that it won't fade, as it happened in 2006 or 2010. Or at least remember how the day after the dispersal of Freedom Day in 2017, people took to the streets to support detainees. The latest example is when Belarusian musicians were detained and people were standing there, being not afraid to sing songs, even after a cop approached and threatened to use physical force. We just need more people with a core inside.
And the second our peculiarity is our partisan heritage. Belarusians know how to deliver surgical "sabotage attacks" when the authorities do not understand what is happening and where. Let's take at least fireworks and white-red-white flags on March 25 in different parts of the country.
- What do you think of mayhem of the authorities?
- Both the search of Belsat, the persecution of dissidents (from protesters in Brest to schoolchildren with a white-red-white flag), and lawlessness in Kurapaty, in my opinion, point not at strong arm, but, on the contrary, at weakness of the authorities. The system is in panic and doesn't know what to do - there is not even a straw for Lukashenka to keep him from drowning. People are against him, Russia is against him, the West is not going to help. Elections are coming up, the "order" is required, but old PR methods like fighting p***ng cows and standard pressure with intimidation no longer work. People are not afraid anymore and speak out despite threats. Society sees who is the liar and who's telling the truth, how it should be and how it should not.
At the same time, the authorities demonstrate the lack of coordination and unified ideological strategy within the system. Officials and ordinary performers of criminal orders do not even know what to say and how to look people in the eye, because this political regime is based on deception, fear, lawlessness and the will of one person.
— What will you wish to young Belarusians?
- I wish the young generation and all Belarusians in general not to be inactive. Even if you don't want to head for trouble, you don't have to sit in the corner and stay idle. Even if you like the video about the real situation in the country, nobody will put you in jail or fire you. Inform those who don't know about it. Take yourself out from the information propaganda of Russia, engage in self-education.
And the main thing is not to be indifferent and tolerant. Take an interest in your rights and know that only free people, free society can build a decent country and a future. Because if you live a fleeting life like "I will go to the elections, I will vote early, because it's said at work or promised me to pass the class", nothing of it will work. You will pass one credit, and the chance to change something will be lost, and you will suffer other five years. You have to use every moment and not be indifferent. I think that's the most important thing.