Mass protests, police brutality and a pandemic – challenges for media in Belarus

by Lyuba Milyokhina

On September 10th, the second online conference of Media Dialogue for Pluralism and Understanding was held to discuss in detail the situation of the media sphere in Belarus, Georgia and N. Macedonia.

The first keynote speaker was the Belarussian journalist Andrei Bastunets. He informed about the current situation in Belarus and explained how Belarus has dealt with Covid-19 in the last months and how the pandemic has influenced the media system.

First of all, the current political situation in Belarus is extremely difficult, which affects to a great extent the activities of journalists. The state under the rule of Alexander Lukashenko critically restricts freedom of expression and control the media. They block access to various information sources, close editorial offices and turn off the Internet.

There is also a place for propaganda, fake news and Russian interference in their information process. And because of mass protests in Belarus, the police are hindering the work of journalists, damaging filming equipment and carrying out physical violence. Foreign journalists are not able to work under these circumstances if they do not publish in favor of the government.

Also, there are numerous patients with coronavirus in the country, which was initially not recognized by the authorities. However, now the pandemic has become an instrument in the hands of the authorities, who are manipulating the media. The main problem is that people cannot be informed about the epidemiological situation because there are no reliable data and statistics.

Of course, Belarusians continue their struggle and receive help from other countries. However, this assistance is not enough yet. All conference participants discussed problems and ways to solve them. We all want to improve the situation in the country and will involve possible ways to help.