Change.org Blocked in Belarus, New Civil Society Initiatives - Civil Society Digest

Two individuals arrested by the KGB in connection with the teddy bear stunt released in Belarus. Change.org - an international web site platform to sign petitions - blocked in Belarus. New initiatives for small small businesses, people with disabilities and human rights activists launched in Belarus. 

Two men accused of aiding teddy bear drop released by KGBOn August 17 KGB released journalist Anton Suriapin and real estate broker Sergey Basharimov on the conditions of proper conduct and travel ban. The two men remain to be formally accused of aiding an illegal border crossing of Belarus, until KGB has “full clarity regarding the circumstances of the investigated crime”.  

Change.org is blocked for Belarusians. The Russian version of the international Change.org platform, where the petition for the release of Anton Suryapin and Sergei Basharimov (detained on criminal charge of illegal crossing of the border of Belarus during the Swedish Teddy bear affair) is conducted, has been blocked on the territory of Belarus. Dmitriy Savelov, the campaign coordinator for Eastern Europe and Asia, claims that this only shows the meaningfulness and effectiveness of such online petitions.

Independent Journalists detained in Vitebsk – On Thursday, August 9, two hosts of Polish tv-challel “Belsat” Volha Startstsina and Dzyanis Mikhailav were detained during shooting a news piece in the streets of Vitebsk. The news piece was dedicated to the upcoming elections in Belarus and whether the people know their candidates. The reasons for the detention have not been announced.

School students will be taught counter-propaganda about December 19th – A new schoolbook on preliminary military training has been issued in Belarus. Among other topics, this book contains chapters on “Informational war”. The book offers its own version of the events of December 19, 2010, depicting them as “a failed attempt of a conspiracy to overthrow the legitimate Belarusian government”.

Avangard vs BRSM over Internet TV project. The Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) announced that it is launching it’s own internet-television A-TV. According to BRSM, which is the largest government-sponsored youth organization, the internet-TV is started on a voluntary basis, and will be covering social programs, debates and other timely issues. Shortly after the announcement, Avangard issued a statement refuting BRSM’s claims for ownership of A-TV. According to Avangard, A-TV project, including resources, production team and journalists is the property of Avangard. The only involvement of BRSM is that it allows Avangard to use its TV studio, in exchange for Avangard’s assistance with production of TV content for BRSM’s internal use.

Business

Groundbreaking decisions announced by the government for small business – The government has agreed to reduce the tax burden for small business and provided other opportunities for its development. This was announced at the August 8 meeting of the Council of Ministers. But the government should not stop on what has been achieved – the goals set by the authorities are too challenging to do so. Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Entrepreneurs, Alexander Kalinin, who spoke at the meeting, said in an interview with a Naviny.by reporter, that the Government's objective "is theoretically achievable."

Head of Minsk Entrepreneurs Unions speaks against further sanctions from the EU – head of Minsk entrepreneurs’ union Vladimir Koryagin expresses to Sergei Glagolev from ej.byhis opinion on the possibility of Belarusian business suffering from possible sanctions from EU due to the recent diplomatic conflict with Sweden.

New Initiatives

New project of the Disability Rights Office “Non-barrier environment monitoring” has started.  In July 2012, the office for protection of the rights of people with disabilities has started the implementation of its new project aimed at creation of the non-barrier environment monitoring tool and its pilot exercising.

Belarus will host a rock festival for young people with disabilities  Rock festival for young people with disabilities "Step nasustrach!", organized by the volunteer movement "Warm smiles of the childhood" (TUD), will be held on September 16. According to the Igor Yurchik, the leader of the movement, the purpose of the festival is to promote the integration of young people with disabilities into society.

International festival of the new ethno culture «Volnae Pavetra – 2012» - the fifth annual ethnic festival is going to take place on August 25th at the Shabli village in Minsk region. The guests of the festival are ethnic bands from a number of countries, but the festival is still dedicated to spreading the Belarusian ethnic culture.

Informational meeting: European programmes for CSO's in Belarus. An enlightenment institution “Office for European expertise and communications” is organising an informational event dedicated to the opportunities for civic organizations from Belarus interested in cooperation in the fields of culture, education, science, youth exchange, tourism and reforms in the Eastern partnership countries. The meeting will be held on August 22 in Minsk.

A contest to participate in the second international training course on human rights for young people – has been announced by Viasna human rights center. The course will bring together young activists from Belarus and Ukraine. The Belarusian Human Rights School announces a call for participation in the Second International training course on human rights, organized and coordinated a number of human rights organizations - the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, PA "M’ART" (Ukraine), the Human Rights Center "Postup" (Ukraine) and Viasna human rights center (Belarus).

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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