Pressure against Activists and Independent Media - Digest of Belarusian Politics

Syarhey Kavalanka

Belarusian authorities maintain their pressure against independent media and activists. Last week was marked by new measures against political prisoners Syarhey Kavalenka and Milakay Autukhovich as well as Vitsebsky Kurier and Arche independent outlets.

Hunger-striking opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka being force-fed in Vitsyebsk jail. On January 16, the administration of a detention center in Vitsyebsk began force-feeding Syarhey Kavalenka to abort the opposition activist's month-long hunger strike. In May 2010, Kavalenka was given a three-year suspended prison sentence after creating a scandal by putting a white-red-white flag on top of Vitsyebsk's tallest Christmas tree. On December 19, Kavalenka was arrested at home on a charge of violating probation rules four times. He has been on hunger strike since then.

Mikalay Autukhovich to be moved to cell-type prison. On January 17, a judge of the Ivatsevichy District Court has ordered the transfer of Mikalay Autukhovich to a cell-type prison. In a trial that was held in Correctional Institution No.5 in Ivatsevichy, Brest region, the judge found Autukhovich guilty of persistent violations of prison rules. The ruling means that the man will have to serve the remaining 27 months of his sentence in a prison where there is higher security and more restrictions.

Organizers of Narodny Skhod rallies launch boycott campaign ahead of parliamentary elections. On January 14, people’s representatives elected during "Narodny Skhod" (People's Assembly) rallies at the end of 2010 have launched a campaign of actively boycotting the "imitation of elections" to the "puppet House of Representatives" scheduled for September, Viktar Ivashkevich, one of the main organizers of the rallies, told. The campaigners plan to promote measures to overcome the current crisis and demand freedom for all political prisoners, fair elections and the abolition of the system of fixed-term employment contracts. 

Co-workers back down on threat to quit in solidarity with trade union activist. Alyaksey Paulouski's co-workers have backed down in a row with the management of a Mogilev-based state-owned construction company that intends to sack the bricklayer and trade union activist. The company management held one-on-one meetings with all of the other 15 members of Paulouski's bricklayer team and nearly all of the men eventually reversed their stance and stopped making any demands.

Independent trade unions may launch campaign for EU's boycott of Belarusian imports. Belarus’ independent trade unions are considering the possibility of launching a campaign for the European Union’s boycott of Belarusian imports. “If attempts to crush the independent trade union movement in Belarus continue, we should be able to carry out such a campaign in response,” Alyaksandr Yarashuk, chairman of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, told on January 18.

Media

Arche magazine warned by Information Ministry. The latest issue of the Arche magazine (No.10, 2011) violated Article 22 of the Mass Media Code. The independent journalists reportedly misspelled the name of the Ministry of Information. Apart from that, Arche’s date and number of registration are said to be incorrect. As a result of the alleged violations, on January 10, the magazine’s editorial board received an official warning by Minister of Information.

Vitsebsk road police seize independent newspapers. On January 14, Vitsebsk road police seized 10,000 copies of the Vitsebsky Kurier independent newspaper featuring an article “Six facts on Ales Bialiatski’s case that BT and SovetskayaBelorussia fail to cover”.

The state-run media have more than 45 million euros in their budget for 2012. This follows from the Law "On Republican Budget for 2012", as BAJ reports. Most of the money goes to television and radio - about 34 million euros.

International

Outgoing president of European Parliament disappointed by EU`s failure to influence situation in Belarus. The European Parliament`s outgoing president, Jerzy Buzek, has expressed disappointment that Europe’s efforts to influence the situation in Belarus are not successful. While speaking in Warsaw on January 15, Mr.Buzek emphasized the need to support the country’s pro-democratic forces, saying that only civil society could change the situation in Belarus.

EU, Belarusian politicians call for moving 2014 world hockey championship from Belarus. A group of European Union and Belarusian politicians have petitioned the heads of national ice hockey federations and the EU leadership to move the 2014 Ice Hockey World Championship from Belarus to a different country over human rights abuse and the persecution of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's political opponents. The petition has been signed by Belarusian opposition figures Natallya Kalyada, Mikalay Khalezin, Iryna Krasowski, playwright Tom Stoppard, etc.

Swedish politician not allowed in Belarus. Embassy of Belarus in Sweden refused to grant visa to the head of the regional structure of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Sweden, Lars Ove Yangson. The Swedish politician had planned to arrive in Brest on a working visit at the invitation of the regional organization of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) and the Free Trade Union of Belarus in Brest.

December 19 once again recalled in Vilnius. On January 16, Belarusian Human Rights House in conjunction with the Human Rights Centre Viasna and the civil campaign "Our Home" presented the book, calendar, children's colouring book, postcards, and a number of video clips dedicated to the participants of 2010 Ploshcha.

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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