Under the impression of the revolutions in the Arab world and Greek protests against the austerity program of the government, Western media tend to jump to conclusions when writing about the current situation in Belarus.
“Following the Arab example of regime change through social networks, thousands of people gathered in the Belarusian capital to protest against the authoritarian regime”, the German news channel NTV started its report on the protests that took place on Wednesday evening in Minsk and in several other Belarusian towns.
For most Western media it seems to be difficult to differentiate between democratic transitions in different parts of the world. Protests in a country that they keep calling “Europe’s last dictatorship” are a reliable hint for them that a regime change is close. Titles like “The revolution has begun” of the British web journal digitaljournal.com leave little doubt about that. Stephan Morgan writes in his article:
"Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus and close buddy of Muammar Gaddafi, looks to be facing the beginnings of his own revolution. Like the Arab countries, protests against the dictatorship are being coordinated through social networks and they are growing in size and frequency.”
While many German print media do not report on the all-Wednesday protests in Belarus, it is Austrian and Swiss press that keep covering the gatherings. As a reaction to the arrests, the Austrian foreign minister and Vice-Chancellor Michael Spindelegger protested against the treatment of demonstrators and demanded that political prisoners should be released.
One of the best articles on Wednesday’s protests has been published by BBC online. BBC's Oleg Boldyrev underlines that changes “will come only when the hitherto indifferent working class starts raising its voice” quoting political analyst Yuri Chausov.
Still, well-researched articles of correspondents present in Minsk remains an exception in the Western press. - Boldyrev’s colleagues at BBC London, Nick Sturdee and Lucy Ash, have seen their visa withdrawn. According to Belarusian independent news agency BelaPan, the reporters, who had received Belarus' visas and got accredited by the foreign ministry, were planned to visit Belarus on 3 July, the day of official celebrations. However, a few days before the trip the Belarusian embassy in London informed them that the foreign ministry had revoked their visas without giving any reasons.
Belarusian media seem to be busy giving more practical hints: Nasha Niva has already published legal advice how to behave in case you get arrested during the protests. After the usual reporting on the protests on Thursday, media has quickly turned to the upcoming event on this weekend. Websites like charter97.org are calling Belarusians to participate in the protests staged for July 3rd, the official Belarusian Independence Day. Streets in Minsk have been blocked during evenings over the last days to prevent protesters from gathering and to allow tanks to practice for the military parade.
Not only the authorities have a tense mood. According to Minsk police, clapping, a sign of the silent protests will be seen as an offense during the parade except when clapping for war veterans. Minsk residents think it is ridiculous that the tanks destroying the asphalt of the streets in the capital of the bankrupt country. It will be interesting to see whether people will disturb the president’s speech with their clapping, as the organizers of the “Revolution through social networks” are planning.