Drift Towards Russia, Legal Environment for NGOs and Journalists - Digest of Belarusian Analytics

Andrey Yahorau

Belarusian analysts discuss the country's drift towards Russia, recent public opinion polls and which human rights are more important - social or political. New reports were published on the state of media in Belarus and environment for NGO activities. 

Who Is Losing Belarus? – Grigory Ioffe responds to Zbigniew Brzezinski's thesis that “with the decline of America’s global preeminence, weaker countries will be more susceptible to the assertive influence of major regional powers". Ioffe thinks that Russia is winning the tug of war for Belarus due to its businesslike Belarus policy. This is why, and not because of the decline in the overall America’s power, Belarus is on the “geopolitically endangered species” list. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Adviser of the United States and the author of the concept of NATO expansion to the East, included Belarus into a list of eight geopolitically endangered countries in the event of slower foreign policy activity of the United States.

Book presentation: "Europe - the choice of free Belarusians". On January 26, in Minsk, the office of the Movement "For Freedom" presented a book with the participation of the authors: Andrey Yahorau, Eduard Melnikau, Sergey Alfer, Dina Shevtsova, and others. The book consists of road maps for rapprochement Belarus and the EU in selected thematic areas: media; government cooperation with civil society; local government; freedom of conscience and religion; culture, etc.

What Eurasian integration holds for Belarus – Yauheni Preiherman analyzes the prospects of the new phase of the post-Soviet integration. The expert thinks that the Eurasian integration process alone does not make Belarus’ dependence on Russia total and inescapable. At the same Belarus’ dependence on Russia is gradually growing stronger, which directly constrains any space for Belarus' geopolitical maneuvering.

BISS December 2011 Polling Memo – Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies presented the fourth issue of the polling memorandum series based on the public opinion poll data of the Independent Institute for Social, Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS). In particular, the authors consider that December’s polling results support the trend of the year - the formation of a new majority of Belarusians politically staying "in the middle", being represented neither by the incumbent, nor by the opposition.

Reform, but not radical – Vadim Gigin, the editor of the state-owned magazine "Belaruskaya Dumka" comments on Lukashenka's statement about the intention to modernize the political system. Political scientist says that modernization means no revolution and its purpose is to overcome the political split in society and creating conditions for national consolidation. Gigin notes that the split is along the line of the civil majority (dominant) and the political opposition (underground).

Violations of Journalists' and Mass Media Rights in 2011The Belarusian Association of Journalists has released an annual review . In particular, BAJ identifies the following blatant violations: criminal prosecution of journalists; numerous detentions of journalists at protest actions throughout 2011; the introduction of claims against “Narodnaya Vola” and “Nasha Niva” by the Ministry of Information; restrictions on the free use of the internet, etc.

Monitoring of the legal environment for NGOs-2011. The Assembly of democratic NGOs and Legal Transformation Center released a full text of a monitoring of the NGOs’ legal status and freedom of association in Belarus in 2011. The authors name the following significant events and trends: the change in legislation, enacting new restrictions on the financing of NGOs and political parties; the verdict against the Head of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Ales Byalyatski; the prosecutor's warnings under Article 193-1, etc.

Non-governmental organizations in exile: the Belarusian phenomenon - political analyst Yury Chavusau draws attention to the fact that not all NGOs wishing to obtain legal status can be registered in Belarus. In these circumstances, many of them get legal status in neighboring countries. Considering Ales Byalyatski’s case, the expert recommends to register an official legal entity abroad for donations and grants that may be an important tool to prevent allegations of tax violations.

Tonkacheva and Gigin on the transformation of the political system – on January 24, on the air of TV-TUT.BY a human rights activist Elena Tonkacheva and chief editor of "Belarusian Thought" Vadim Gigin, discussed the situation of human rights in Belarus. According to Tonkacheva, the critical areas are civil and political rights, while for Gigin economic rights were more important. Vadim Gigin emphasized that Belarusian authorities did not close down any media last year and that Belarusian human rights activists work only with certain groups of population rather with all segments of the society because thematic directions are given to them by donors. 

Election-2012. Possible scenarios – activist of the Movement “For Freedom” Yuras Hubarevich describes three scenarios for the possible participation of the opposition in parliamentary elections in September: active boycott, participation with demands to authorities, and participation to the end. The politician does not give any solutions as to which scenario is the best.

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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