Solidarity Day, Election Observers, New Media Watchdog - Civil Society Digest

The most notable events of the last two weeks include the launch of the first Belarusian online media watchdog. Civil society organisations funding from the state budget becomes possible through amendments to Law on Social Services. A weekly election monitoring report notes the high rate of rejections of registration of opposition candidates initiative groups.

Day of Solidarity with Civil Society of Belarus. August 4, the day of arrest of Ales Bialiatsky, was chosen in 2012 by the Committee of International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus as the international Day of Solidarity with Civil Society of Belarus. Activists in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Germany, the UK, and other countries held public events, discussions, film screenings, and other activities. Ales Bialiatski, head of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” was arrested on August 4, 2011 and later sentenced to four and a half years of imprisonment for his human rights activities.

Belarusian Association of Journalists demands release of Anton Surapin. A petition with the demand was sent to the chairperson of the Belarusian KGB on July 25. BAJ member, Anton Surapin is staying on the detention center of the KGB. He has been detained in connection with the investigation into the criminal case of border trespass, so called "the teddy bears landing". The statements to release “teddy bear” free speech activist were also adopted by Amnesty International and Human rights Centre “Viasna”.

Joint appeal of human rights NGOs. Representatives of human rights organizations –Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Centre "Viasna", Committee "Solidarity", Legal Transformation Centre and the Centre for Human Rights – appealed to the General Prosecutor and Chairman of the Supreme Court requesting a meeting to discuss the situation with illegal preventive detention of civil activists and youth opposition groups. As examples human rights defenders mention detentions of more than 15 people in May-July 2012.

Elections

Report on monitoring election results: July 23rd-29th. The campaign "Human rights defenders for free elections" released its weekly report on monitoring election results. In particular, the report notes that 85 initiative groups were rejected registration which almost 4 times higher than during the previous parliamentary election. At the same time the overwhelming majority of the initiative groups in support of the oppositional candidates were registered.

EOTP invites observers. The project "Election Observation: Theory and Practice Project" (EOTP) invites active Belarusians to monitor the parliamentary elections to be held in September 2012. EOTP was launched in 2007 at the initiative of the students of European Humanities University (EHU) and Swedish International Liberal Centre (SILC). EOTP is jointly implemented by the Belarus Watch, EHU and Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius.

Other Topics

Mediakritika.by: Truth Loves Criticism. A new analytical media project has been launched – Mediakritika.by. Created by a team of Belarusian journalists, it is aimed at comprehensive critical analysis of the media in Belarus. The new project sets the task to improve the quality of the Belarusian journalism by monitoring the quality of news as it is presented in all Belarusian media.

OEEC workshop for small and medium business. On July 20, the Office of European Expertise and Communication in the framework of the project "Clearing House" conducted a thematic workshop for representatives of associations and organizations working in small and medium business. The participants shared their actual issues and needs, as well as delivered the priorities of this sector in the European context.
 
The new edition of the Law "On social services". On July 13, the national legal base has introduced a new version of the law "On Social Services" which means that the law has been approved at all levels and entered into force. For the first time the law establishes the possibility of the social services, which provides funding for non-profit organizations from the state budget.
 
SYMPA’s workshop. On July 30-August 1, the School of Young Managers in Public Administration organizes the workshop "Human resource management in modern organizations: International experience and practical implementation". The focus of the workshop is HR for public administration. The workshop will take place at the conference hall of the Ministry of Trade. According to the SYMPA newsletter.

Photo exhibition and the book "No stereotypes". On August 1, Minsk hosted a photo exhibition and presentation of a book about the people with mental illness. The event was held under the project "No stereotypes" aimed at preventing prejudice against people with mental and intellectual illness. The project was launched in October 2011 and implemented by the international charity NGO "UniHelp" with financial support of the EU.

APB BirdLife invites volunteers. From July 30 to August 21, the NGO "APB BirdLife Belarus" holds a series of summer camps for the maintenance of the hydrological regime of the marsh Yelnya. This year the examination of hydrological structures and their maintenance will be made by about 50 volunteers as well as local residents of Miory and Sharkovshchina districts, Vitebsk region.

Art works of prisoners. On August 1, Gomel Picture Gallery opened an exhibition of works of women serving a sentence in a local penal colony. The event is organized by the Gomel Regional NGO "Social Projects" with the support of Deutscher Volkshochschul-Verband eV (Germany). The aim of the project is promoting the social rehabilitation of prisoners through improving their educational and professional level.

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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