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Bike Carnival, pressure on journalists, civil protests – Belarus civil society digest

Zrobim! environmental campaign opens its sixth season. Bike Carnival will be held in Minsk on May 12. Death penalty discussion resumes. Organizers of the annual Chernobyl Path rally start a local fundraising campaign. Amendments to media law pass first...

Zrobim! environmental campaign opens its sixth season. Bike Carnival will be held in Minsk on May 12. Death penalty discussion resumes. Organizers of the annual Chernobyl Path rally start a local fundraising campaign.

Amendments to media law pass first reading in the parliament: BAJ suggestions not considered so far. BAJ monitoring report: in 2017, the situation was one of the toughest for Belarusian independent journalism in recent years. Belarusian Helsinki Committee presents a guide on human rights-based approach.

Brest citizens protest against dirty plant construction, protesters detained on May Day in Minsk. Drug convicts’ relatives still on hunger strike, seeking a meeting with Lukashenka. Belarusian Army ranked 41st out of 136 nations.

This and more in the new edition of Belarus civil society digest.

Civil society

Zrobim! environmental campaign opens its 6th seasonZrobim! is a part of Let’s Do It! global movement and organized by Belarusian environmental CSOs since 2012. Starting from April 21, volunteers clean unauthorized dumps and put them on an online map. The campaign will end on the Global Cleaning Day in September when the volunteers from 150 countries will come to the action all over the world.

Viva Rovar! Bike Carnival to be held in Minsk on May 12. This year the bicycle carnival Viva Rovar! (Viva, Bike!) is organized for the 3rd time. Last year, over 11,000 participants from Belarus, as well as Ukraine, Russia, Sweden, Lithuania and other countries registered for participation in the bicycle parade. The Minsk Cycling Society is among the organizers.

Round table on the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus held on April 18, Minsk. Organized by the Council of Europe the event involved members of the Belarusian Parliament and representatives of CSOs. Belarus is still the only executioner in Europe and Central Asia. Amnesty International in its annual report records at least two death sentences in Belarus in 2017 compared to at least four in 2016.

Charnobyl Path 2018 Source: greenbelarus.info

Charnobylski Shlykh action collects money through crowdfunding. Charnobylski Shlykh/ Chernobyl Path is a traditional action organized by political parties and CSOs on April 26 to remind about the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The organizers plan to raise 5K rubles ($2,500) to cover an information campaign. The recent political action on Freedom Day of March 25 collected almost $27K through crowdfunding.

Civil protests

Two thousand Brest citizens protesting dirty plant construction. On April 29, a Brest park was filled with protesters who gathered for a rally against the construction of the plant, approved by the authorities. A Chinese company is building a battery plant at a rapid pace near Brest. The work of the plant can cause severe damage to human health due to lead emissions.

Protesters detained on May Day in Minsk. At least nine people were arrested by the police before and during the protest in Minsk, which was organized by the REP Trade Union. The gathering was authorized by the city administration. Five of them are associates of the opposition leader Mikalai Statkevich. Later anarchist Vyachaslau Kasinerau was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest.

Drug convicts’ relatives still on hunger strike, seeking a meeting with Lukashenka. On April 27, the members of the Mothers-328 movement started an indefinite hunger strike, seeking to mitigate the punishment under criminal article 328. They believe that punishment for drug users is disproportionate and too severe.

Education

Leadership in Local Communities kicked off. The long-term educational program has been launched for the 3rd time to empower grassroots leaders to lead positive changes in local communities. 28 activists from 25 communities were selected for this round. The program is implemented by the Office for European Expertise and Communications in partnership with Pact and the support of USAID.

Free educational course on Internet marketing for small towns launched. The project Job Connected allows people who lost their jobs or not satisfied with the conditions of their work, to acquire competencies to earn remotely. The educational online course runs from April to July. 440 people registered for participation, including residents of over 40 small Belarusian towns.

Media

Amendments to media law pass first reading: BAJ suggestions not considered so far. The Parliament approved the changes to the Law on Mass Media in the first reading with 98 MPs voted pro, 2 voted contra and 2 people abstained. One of the innovations is the mandatory identification of users posting comments on websites. A special commission will consider the suggestions of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) before the second reading.

BAJ Monitoring Report 2017. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) released an annual report on the situation in the sphere of Belarusian mass media last year. The key finding is that the situation appeared to be one of the toughest for Belarusian independent journalism in recent years. Thus, 101 cases of detention of journalists on duty were registered in 2017 compared to 13 cases in 2016.

Belarusian Helsinki Committee presents a guide on human rights-based approach. The guide in a user-friendly manner gives deeper and specialized knowledge how to add human rights to daily life, civic projects, and business. The service is provided in collaboration with The Danish Institute for Human Rights.

Other

Belarusian army

Belarusian army. Source: nn.by

European Parliament adopted a resolution on Belarus on April 19. The resolution supports the EU’s critical engagement with Belarus, as long as it is conditioned on the Belarusian authorities’ complete respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights. The document urges continued EU support to civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

IMF improves Belarus’ GDP growth forecast. Belarus’s economy will expand by 2.8% in 2018 and by 2.4 in 2019, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in the April edition of its World Economic Outlook report. Earlier, the fund forecasted Belarus’ GDP growth at 0.7% in 2018.

Belarusian Army ranked 41st out of 136 nations. Last year Belarus took the 49th place in Global Firepower list. Military resources, diversity of weapon systems, natural resources, industry and geographical features, available manpower are taken into account. In 2017, the country increased arms exports by 15% and earned over $1 billion.

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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Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk
Olga Hryniuk holds degrees from Coventry University and the European Humanities University. She is based in Minsk, Belarus.
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