ARCHE under Threat, Sannikau in London - Digest of Belarusian Politics

Valer Bulhakau

The Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies sparked angry opposition reactions with its fresh opinion polls covering recent parliamentary elections. ​Former presidential candidate Andrej Sannikov was granted political asylum in the UK. Mediakritika published top 10 Belarusian hits on youtube, and Budzma’s animation is among the top. Activists have tried to preserve the integrity of Kurapaty from a new shopping mall.

IISEPS September-October poll. In September-October 2012, the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS) conducted a public opinion poll covering topical aspects of life in Belarus. The most discussed topic turned out to be the real results of the September parliamentary elections. According to IISEPS 17.4 per cent of respondents had voted early, and 49 per cent on 23 September.

Only 9.6 per cent answered that they had boycotted the elections, and another 24 per cent said they had not participated in voting for other reasons. Some Belarusian politicians expressed distrust in the results of the poll. In their turn IISEPS responded that Belarusian politicians - both opposition and government - see only the figures that favour them.

ARCHE under threat. On 23 October, the evening programme  Zona X, broadcast on a Belarusian state TV channel, dedicated a slot to the magazine ARCHE and its editor Valery Bulhakau. Bulhakau was called "the boss of the magazine" and the confiscated books were characterised as "the literature, which smells bad." "The recent events show the commitment to deal with another independent edition," the BAJ Chairwoman Zhanna Litvina commented on the situation.

The economic court of Hrodna region fined Valery Bulhakau for five base amounts (almost 50 euros). The court also confiscated all profits from sales of the ARCHE magazine which amounted to BYR 875,000 rubles (almost 80 euros). The editor was found guilty of illegal business activities. Further, on 2 October, the authorities confiscated more than 5000 books that may be subject to criminal charges. Now Valery Bulhakau has resigned as editor of ARCHE to save the magazine from closing.

Andrei Sannikau granted political asylum in Britain. The leader of European Belarus civic campaign, former presidential candidate and political prisoner Sannikau claimed there was a threat of a rearrest. “It was not an easy decision for me. But believe me I did not have any other choice”, - Andrei Sannikau said.

Database on Polish aid to Belarusian opposition leaked to internet. The internal-use database of the Polish foreign ministry which describes the cooperation and funding of the Belarusian opposition appeared on an American website. The database reveals the information on aid to several countries in 2007–2011, including descriptions of the project and funding with NGOs. Now the data has already been removed from free access.

The People's Program of Belarus in Warsaw. The presentation was organised in the framework of the project "European Dialogue for Modernization of Belarus." At the Belarusian House in Warsaw, Yuri Gubarevich and Sergei Chaly presented the People's program of Belarus, a document aimed to develop a new positive vision for the future of Belarus through expert and public discussion of actual issues of the country's development.

Brussels Declaration of Belarusian oppositionists. On 17 October, twelve Belarusian political groups adopted a joint appeal to the European Union and called upon the EU institutions to engage as much as possible with the cause of democratisation in Belarus. The joint appeal was signed by representatives of European Belarus, the For Freedom movement, Young Front, the Tell the Truth! campaign, Fair World party, For Modernization union, etc.

Petition to protect Kurapaty. A group of activists launched a petition through Change.org website to stop the construction of an entertainment complex "Bulbash hall" in Kurapaty where during the years of Stalinist repression tens of thousands of people were shot and buried. The petition has already been signed by about 1200 people and is being directed to relevant government agencies.

Activists discuss possibility of dialogue with authorities.  On 16 October, Belarusian human rights activists held a meeting in Minsk to decide whether they should start a dialogue with the authorities on the need to established a national human rights ombudsman. The initiator of the meeting is the Minsk-based Legal Transformation Center (Lawtrend). The activists noted that Belarusian human rights defenders have always been in favour of establishing an ombudsman's office in the country.

Gomel think tank is under threat. According to the founders of the Gomel independent institute Strategic Thought, the tax services have started checking in relation to the institution because it does not bring revenue, which impedes the profit indicators of the region. Strategic Thought is the first regional community of independent experts, established in 2010 in Gomel.

Activists sentenced to 5 days of arrest. The leader of the Alternative youth initiative  Aleh Korban and activist Uladzimir Siarheyeu were detained for activity against propaganda on Belarusian TV. They held a flash-mob putting a TV set with the logo of the first National TV channel and noodles atop and around it. “To put noodles on somebody's ears” in Slavonic languages is an idiom meaning “to tell bold lies”.

Top 10 youtube videos for Belarusians. Mediakritika.by analyses a list of 10 videos, which have "entered Belarusian history". Among the top videos are the famous "I am from a village" music video, an historical animation by Budzma! and Russian-produced series Krestnyi Batka (God Father), dedicated to Lukashenko.    

Elections in the media monitoring - Final Report. The Monitoring group of Belarusian Association of Journalists summed up the results of the parliamentary elections coverage. According to the report, unlike all the previous elections monitored by BAJ, both state-owned and independent media lost interest in election related subjects pretty soon after the polling.

Ales Bialiatski, the imprisoned leader of the Human Rights Center Viasna was bestowed Honorary Freedom (Citoyen d’honneur) of the City of Paris.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.

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