Press Freedom Week in Review

13.05.2016 Source: Press service of BAJ

In the first week of May, Belarus celebrated a whole bunch of holidays, and press freedom day was not an exception. Although, there is not much freedom of the press here, as Freedom House described it in the recent report, and the media environment is not normal, as IREX aptly noticed, Belarusian journalists still enjoy enough freedom to talk about freedom, and that was the highlight of May 3rd.

One of the most remarkable events was opening of the World Press Photo 2016 exhibition in creative space Cekh.

BAJ traditionally announced the short list of winners of the yearly creative contest of BAJ Volnaye Slova (Free Word). The awarding ceremony is to take place in autumn.

Also, BAJ members shared their success stories in a series Freedom of Speech Changes Life, a worthy positive reading.

On May 2, Belarusian online community were especially happy for Viktar Malisheuski and his blog antijournalist.by for winning The Bobs, Best of Online Activism – the best blog in Russian chosen by online voting. “Thank you. For the first time I don’t know what to write. We are cool!” – confessed the blogger.

Arund the press freedom days, debates were sparked about the value of modern-day mass media influence.

In an opinion article on May 3 for Journalby.com, the writer and columnist Viktar Martsinovich expressed his view that nowadays “the media word has devalued. The authorities no longer care what we know and think about them.” The phenomenon is based on the situation when “there appeared a gap between media events and direct action, readers’ reactions got virtualized”.

The statement is supported by fail stories, among them we have also our common failure of not restoring justice for our colleague Pavel Dabravolski.

The column fell within eyesight of state media thinking heads, as it was discussed in the Editors’ Club on Belarus 1 TV channel on May 8. The editor-in-chief of SB.Belarus Segodnya Pavel Yakubovich argued that there was even too much freedom. Moreover, these are “bloggers who downplay the media field”, he thinks, as in the light of half-scandalous unworthy information (he set as an example beating of a vagrant in an underground passage or a woman’s suicide attempt), so “in the light of such half-scandalous unworthy information which starts prevailing in the media sphere, the public lost trust in the press, TV and radio”.

The statement fails to criticize in essence Martsinovich’s view, however, it echoes well the fresh suggestion of the Russia’s Institute of Development of the Internet to introduce regulations for small media (websites who do not have a mass media license of Roskomnodzor). As state media chief representatives often happened to be a mouth speaker for backstage novelties prepared by the officials, the Internet community expects something not good (something like a law regulating bloggers).

By the way, on May 11, the Information Minister of Belarus Liliya Ananich opened the yearly exhibition Mass Media in Belarus. “When we held the first exhibition (20 years ago), there were slightly over 800 periodicals. There weren’t as many TV channels. Today we have over 1.5 thousand outlets. And the Internet technologies have developed significantly,” she said.

Meantime, slightly before that Belta quoted Liliya Ananich saying that Russia and Belarus were working together to create “a common informational space”. “We in Belarus have always stuck to the idea that the information space should serve to aims of our country. For that it would serve to the creation of the Union State and everything caused by the time, to consolidation of efforts of states and peoples in solving the most difficult tasks.”

Briefly, on May 12 the Ministry of Information of Belarus and the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media of Russia bid to adopt a plan for 2016 – 2017 and to set up “a special body that would resist to informational aggression and work over formation and promotion of an attractive image of the Union State (the Union State of Russia and Belarus – note).”