23 April 2021, Friday, 16:39
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

We Are Proud of You, Girls

We Are Proud of You, Girls
Iryna Khalip

The fearlessness of real professionals.

The photo of Yekaterina Andreyeva and Daria Chultsova embracing behind bars in the courtroom after the verdict could be a great cover for at least two magazines - Time and Vogue. They are beautiful, talented, courageous women who did their job so professionally that went to jail for it. It is a real indicator of quality, recognition of merit, an order in journalism.

I can perfectly understand all the KGB and riot police scums who not only put girls in the pre-trial detention centre for several months but also sent them to the penal colony. These scums hate professionals more than white-red-white flags. The reason is jealousy. These scums can never have professionals like these girls in their thinning ranks. I think if Katya Andreeva had been offered a sewing shop in a penal colony or an authorial TV show on prime time Belarusian television, she would have sprinted to the police station so fact that no guards would have been able to keep up with her.

I can imagine how jealous they all are: Katya and Dasha worked for several hours on the air. It was not a cosy studio when a makeup person with a powder puff and an assistant director with a glass of water ran up in between "dear viewers, we continue our marathon". It was a very difficult live broadcast. Now and then, they had to duck and hide when a drone was hovering right in front of the camera. They managed to say the keywords. When the door was already being smashed and it was clear that the girls would not get home tonight. It was top class with the most difficult elements. It was a master class live. It was the fearlessness of professionals. The propagandists go crazy about it and hope that someday they will get a chance to have something of this kind. But they won't get it now: it's too late.

Andreeva and Chultsova have already heard the verdict. The trial of Yekaterina Borysevich, who published information about zero per mille in Raman Bandarenka's blood, has just begun. Borysevich never tried to be a hero. She was a professional. Both when her reports were rewarded by prosecutors and policemen, and when their allies sent her to the KGB detention centre.

Belarusian journalists always knew that the doorbell could ring at 6 a.m. These searchers like to come at dawn when the alarm clock has not yet sounded. When the inhabitant of the apartment, who has just woken up, wrapped in a hastily put on robe or t-shirt, feels increasingly defenceless. They always knew that work at a rally or even on the street could end in arrest. They always knew that a newspaper, a website or a radio station could be shut down the net day. By the way, it was the first lesson to learn back in 1995, when on the last day of August the government just closed the 101.2 radio station. They have long been accustomed to working like partisans.

In the last six months, everyone has had to master other conditions - military ones. There were no extreme journalism courses and no flashpoint training. Yesterday, it was just an occupied territory, where one could adapt to life and work. Today, it is a full-fledged flashpoint. It's filled with gunfire, explosions, attacks by the enemy's army and mercenary units. With blood, torture and victims. With the Gestapo, trying to establish their order. With the awareness that work may result both in the loss of freedom and even life. And with an even more persistent desire to go to work, because this is our war, not someone else's.

Sometimes I try to imagine what an amazing documentary about our protests Pavel Sheremet would have made. He would have captured all of us with surgical precision for history through the impeccable lens of Dzmitry Zavadski's camera. What subtle and inspiring essays Veranika Cherkasava would have written about the heroes of the protests. What kind of columns for "The Charter," telegram channels and video blogs would Aleh Bebenin have come up with?

Pyotr Martsev would have probably created the country's best newspaper again as he did in the nineties. Viktar Ivashkevich, who published Rabochy for many years and had respect at every enterprise, could have used it to organize that nationwide strike that has failed so far. Ales Lipai would have come up with a few more cool media outlets with super-professionals. We would have won together with them sooner. I wish they were here.

However, it's great that we have Katya, Dasha and another Katya. And now we need to win sooner so they could go home. We are proud of you, girls.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org