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Friday, May 05, 2006

“Mass Media in Belarus” Opens in Minsk, Cheney Rebukes Russia and Belarus, reporters without borders, sports, commentary

From the top

Creation of the single economic space (SES) of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan on the table

From: The office of the president

Alexander Lukashenka helping out during the nation–wide day of voluntary work
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met with Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers Andrei Kobyakov to receive his report.
The Vice-Premier informed the Head of State on progress in preparing a package comprising 38 priority documents on the creation of the single economic space (SES) of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.
In 2005, the heads of three states – Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan – charged their governments to thoroughly examine this issue. The documents will help set up a legal framework of the customs union within the SES.
Ukraine, though being a participant in the negotiating process, has not yet decided if it is going to sign about a dozen of documents.
At the same time, the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan adopted a harsh position on accepting the documents on the SES: the agreements must be signed as one package comprising 38 documents.
Alexander Lukashenko has given clear directions regarding the position of Belarus in the negotiating process on this issue.

Mass media against challenges and threats of the 21st century” has opened today in Minsk

From: Belta
The 1st Belarusian information forum “Mass media against challenges and threats of the 21st century” has opened today in Minsk within the frames of the 10th international exhibition “Mass Media in Belarus”. The large-scale event is initiated by the information ministry of the Republic of Belarus.
Attending the forum are more than 100 public figures of media communities from the CIS, Baltic states and other countries. A plenary sitting will voice new ideas on the common position on uniting the information structures of different countries in an effort to counteract modern challenges and threats and will discuss urgent problems of information space development.
The international anti-terrorist media forum will hold a Minsk session titled “The role of mass media in counteracting modern challenges and threats”. This public organization has been set up under the auspices of the CSTO to ensure information support to the fight against extremism, drug trafficking and other challenges and threats. The sitting is expected to pass a resolution of the Minsk session of the international anti-terrorist media forum. The final event will be the Golden Pen Prize award ceremony of the Belarusian union of journalists.
Another highlight of the forum will be a roundtable sitting of the Eurasian academy of television and radio “The role of electronic mass media in reviving and developing the common space of humanitarian values of the CIS countries”. Its participants – famous TV presenters, journalists, figures of culture and representatives of the general public – will discuss urgent issues of the activity of television and radio, role and place of electronic mass media in the modern cultural-information space.
The 1st Belarusian information forum will finish on May 5 with a roundtable “Belarusian electronic mass media in international media area”.
The forum is organized by the information ministry with assistance and participation of several government bodies and organizations of this country, Union State Permanent Committee, CSTO international anti-terrorist media forum, Eurasian academy of television and radio.

Cheney Rebukes Russia and Belarus

From: Washington Post
Vice President Cheney, attending a conference in Lithuania, delivered a strong rebuke today to neighboring Russia, where he said the government of President Vladimir Putin is reversing some democratic gains, using energy supplies for "blackmail" and interfering with adjacent democracies.
Cheney made the comments in a speech at the Vilnius Conference, a gathering of Eastern European leaders whose countries in the Baltic and Black Sea regions formerly belonged to the Soviet bloc. The remarks served notice to Putin that President Bush would press him for a greater commitment to democracy within Russia and in bordering states when Russia hosts this year's Group of Eight summit meeting in St. Petersburg in July.
The criticism of Russia appeared to be the toughest delivered publicly to date by a top Bush administration official and signaled growing concern in Washington with political and economic developments in the former communist nation. But Cheney rejected the idea that Russia was becoming an "enemy" of the United States and its allies as it was during the Cold War.
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    HRW urges UN states to reject 7 for new rights council

    From: khaleej
    UNITED NATIONS - Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged UN members to reject seven of the 65 nations seeking seats on the world body’s new Human Rights Council in elections scheduled for Tuesday.
    The New York-based group believes the rights records of Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia make them unworthy of membership on the new council, said Kenneth Roth, the Human Rights Watch executive director.
    Roth also criticized Venezuela and democracies like India and South Africa but did not recommend they be defeated
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    Belarus: Opposition Seeks Direction After Presidential Election

    From: RFE
    There are essentially two ideas among the Belarusian opposition about how to proceed after the presidential election in March, which led to the largest outburst of antigovernment protests in Belarus in the past decade. A younger generation of opposition activists wants former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich, who has no party affiliation, to lead a broad movement focused on bringing about political change in Belarus. But some opposition parties appear wary of losing their political stature, and prefer to continue to make all strategic decisions pertaining to the opposition through a collective body or a national convention.
    Despite the opposition's overwhelming loss to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's in Belarus's presidential election in March, the organization that represents the major opposition parties in Belarus saw room for optimism in the election result.
    The Political Council of Democratic Forces, which assisted opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich in his bid to prevent Lukashenka from winning a third term in office, has assessed the opposition election campaign as satisfactory.
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    Tenth international exhibition “Mass Media in Belarus” opens in Minsk

    From: NLIPRB
    The tenth international exhibition “Mass Media in Belarus” has opened today in the national exposition center Belexpo in Minsk.
    Showcasing in the jubilee 10th international exhibition “Mass Media in Belarus” will be more than 400 mass media outlets from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Poland, Israel, the PRC and USA. The media forum will widely present Belarusian regional and departmental newspapers and journals, mass media outlets of the Russian Federation and editions of the Belarusian diaspora. This year the exposition area is more than 1000sq.m., or two times as big as last year.
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    Gazprom may hike Belarus fees by three

    From: UPI
    Gazprom is likely to increase Belarusian gas prices at least three-fold in 2007, Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said on Ekho Moskvy radio Tuesday.
    "Last year, when we kept the gas price for Belarus at the same level, we were guided solely by considerations of economic expediency. Last year Belarus did a lot for us," Kupriyanov said, referring to the deal that gave Gazprom ownership of the Belarusian segment of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline.
    "Now we need to understand what steps will be made this year for Gazprom to meet our economic needs. If something is done, we will consider the situation," he said.
    Before any Belarusian price increases are confirmed, Kupriyanov said, the Russian state-owned gas giant is awaiting delayed proposals from the Belarusian government, which were to have arrived by the end of April.
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    Electronic Belarus programme to be enlarged by 51 projects

    From: E-Belarus
    On April 27, Belarusian Minister of Informatization and communications Vladimir Goncharenko informed the Board of Ministers that it is planned to enlarge Electronic Belarus programme by 51 new projects). The number of Electronic Belarus projects will total 109. Br 54bln are to be invested into the new projects including Br 29,9 bln for research and development and Br. 24,2bln for capital investments.
    The State Electronic Belarus programme for 2005 -2010 was adopted in 2002. Within the framework of the programme Br.16bln has been invested into infrastructure development and into e-government related projects in 2005. In 2006, Br. 13,7 bln has been allocated from the state budget for the programme. In 2005-2006, 40 projects were started, and 12 of the accomplished in 2006. The major projects are aimed at automatisation of the state administration bodies.
    Mr. Goncharenko has also said that the Ministry is working on the draft law on Information, Informatization and protection of Information.

    Belarus - 2006 Annual report

    From: Reporters without borders
    The government keeps a tight grip on the state media in this former Soviet republic shunned by the international community and persecutes the few independent outlets that fight to survive.
    Seventeen journalists from the country’s Polish minority were arrested over three months in 2005 and two of them were given jail sentences for “taking part in an illegal demonstration” while covering a protest by small business owners for an opposition website.
    The regime is increasing its pressure on the independent media as the July 2006 presidential election approaches.
    The only independent daily, Narodnaya Volya, already crippled by fines from losing libel suits, had its accounts frozen on 20 September. Minsk city authorities seized all copies of the weekly Den in August and then forced it to close by striking its publishers, Denpress, off the official register of publications. The country’s main independent paper, the twice-weekly BG Delovaya Gazeta, was being financially strangled with enormous fines imposed in libel cases.
    With all opposition papers now forced to print in neighbouring Russia, the monopoly state post office, Belposhta, said it would stop handling subscriber copies of a dozen independent papers from 1 January 2006, ensuring their probable closure.
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    U.N. rights experts seeks Belarus action

    From: UPI
    A U.N. human rights expert is demanding immediate release of political prisoners in Belarus, calling on the government to cease human rights violations.
    In a prepared statement released Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland, Adrian Severin, the United Nations' special rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, also called for the government to allow him to conduct a fact-finding mission to the country as soon as possible.
    "The special rapporteur demands the immediate and unconditional release of Aleksandr Milinkevich, Vintsuk Vyachorka, Aleksandr Buchvostau and Sergei Kalyakin as well as of all other political prisoners of Belarus," the statement said, highlighting Severin's "grave concern" over the detention of these opposition leaders.
    He demanded the government "give a clear and immediate sign of its readiness to cease ongoing human rights violations and bring their perpetrators to justice," and that he be invited to conduct a fact-finding mission to Belarus at the earliest possible opportunity.
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    Viktar Ivashkevich is sentenced to 15 days in jail

    From: Charter '97
    Deputy Head of the Belarusian Popular Front Party Viktar Ivashkevich was sentenced to 15 days in jail by the Court of the Pеrvomaysky District of Minsk City. The politician was pleaded guilty in braking the Art. 167.1, part 2 of the Administrative Code, "organisation of non-sanctioned mass protest action", which in this case was the Chernobyl March that took place in Minsk on 26 April. Let us remind that for the organisation of the Chernobyl March the leader of the Belarusian opposition Aliaksandr Milinkevich, the leader of the BPF Party Vintsuk Viachorka and the Head of the Labour Party Aliaksandr Bukhvoctau have been sentenced to 15 days in jail. The Head of the Party of Communists of Belarus Siargey Kaliakin and the leader of the Youth Front Zmitser Dashkevich have been sentenced to 14 days in jail.

    Time to be creative

    From: Belarus A,erican Blog
    Another demonstration is scheduled to start at 11:00 on May 1. The original plan was to protest against the contract system, but now the main theme will be to demand immediate release of the political prisoners. Both Lukashenko’s rivals – Milinkevich and Kozulin – are in jail. Besides, there are many others including the leadership of the election monitoring group Partnership – Mikałaj Astrejka, Cimafiej Drančuk, Alaksandar Šałajka and Enira Branickaja – who have been behind bars for two months now. Since the arrest, their parents were not allowed to see them. And the defendants were accused of acting on behalf of the unregistered organization. Shortly before the election, this had become a felony in Belarus.
    Unfortunately, it is hard to imagine that the tomorrow’s event will draw a lot of people. The authorities have refused to allow a concert at Bangalor square, and yet there may be some music and singing at the venue. There’s not so much information online about the next protest, and looks like the preparation is a little bit spontaneous and hasty. It seems to me the wave of street protest is declining, the momentum is dying out. And it’s not just because the stamina of the people is lost or the fear of repressions is growing, but this is turning into re-runs, series of repetitious actions with no clear-cut strategy or goal.
    I am afraid we may end up with the 1996 scenario when approximately the same numbers went out to the street rallies, but then the wave abated, for the people saw no point because the protests yielded no fruit.
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    Open the Fire on the Headquarters?

    From: TOL Blogs -Belarus
    There is a very interesting exchange of opinions going on the Belarusian internet regarding the performance of the opposition in the last presidential elections. Critics are all the same: political technologist Uladzimer Matskevich and journalist-at-large Alexander Feduta. Matskevich was famous for working out a ’strategy-2006′ : his way of taking power this year, that was not understood by the opposition leaders (and, frankly, anyone else), and as far as I am concerned, reminded rather a Lenin’s plan for armed uprising rather than a democratic revolution. Feduta is the guy who wrote a comprehensive biography of Lukashenka and also the one who provoked a ‘grant scandal’ five years ago following the presidential elections that years. Not all his accusations about stealing Western money was wrong: but the way his revelations were presented helped to discredit honest activists and sent the opposition in the PR disaster for years. Both agree with one thing: opposition blew it; and discredited leaders shall quit. Yury Khadyka, a veteran activist, argues in response that this rather reminds ‘open the fire on headquarters’ drive of Mao Tse Dung in China, and offers no real solutions. Barys Tumar, another opposition activists, notices that leaders of the dissident resistance cannot be elected: they become ones as they demonstrate courage - and once most party leaders are now in jail, they are just doing it.
    I will agree with Matskevich that the opposition leaders were literally caught in confusion and completely unprepared when they saw some crowds on 19 March, and could not manage it. I agree with Feduta, that some party leaders who took campaign jobs and then ‘forgot’ to submit Milinkevich’s program for publication shall themselves be forgotten. But while I agree in something with the critics of the opposition, I believe it was completely unrealistic to demand the victory in this elections or the revolution: this time, it simply could not have come. There was not, as Vitali Silitski puts it, a revolutionary situation in Belarus at this time. Now, did the opposition do as much as it could at this moment? My answer is perhaps almost as much it did. It consolidated the democratic electorate; it put forward credible leaders (actually, party leader did a good job in this); and it motivated some parts of the society that were before unwilling to join the opposition. Too little too late? Perhaps, but better late than never.
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    Shorthanded Canucks lose to Belarus 4-3

    From: Toronto Sun
    MINSK, Belarus -- Using a patchwork lineup of nine NHL players plus national team skaters and juniors, Canada lost 4-3 to Belarus in an exhibition game yesterday.
    The game was Canada's only exhibition before the world hockey championship begins on Friday.
    Canada opens tournament play against Denmark and coach Marc Habscheid remains uncertain which NHL players will swell the ranks.
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    Tunisia meet Belarus in four-nation cup

    From: Super Soccar
    Tunisia confirmed plans for hosting a four-nation tournament in their build-up to next month's World Cup finals in Germany.
    Libya will play Uruguay in the first match on May 30 at the November 7 stadium at Rade and Tunisia will then meet Belarus, the African country's football federation reported on its website on Wednesday.
    While the winners of the two matches will contest the final on June 2, a playoff between the losers will decide the third-placed team.
    The tournament serves as preparation for Tunisia's trip to the June 9 - July 9 World Cup finals.
    Tunisia will open their Group H campaign on June 14 against Saudia Arabia in Munich. Spain and Ukraine are the other teams in the group.

  • Commentary

    From the BHTimes

    Why is it that no one can think of anything good to say about Belarus in the press?

    Another scan through the news today found yet another batch of anti-Belarusian rhetoric. One would think that after having its name dragged through the mud as often and as gleefully as Belarus has, one would begin to wonder what is happening to Belarusian ex-pats around the world. Are people from the Republic of Belarus having an extra hard time of it these days because of all of the bad press about their motherland? Are they being treated as those of Muslim faith have been since September 11th?

    At the expense of being equally redundant, this on-going anti-Belarus propaganda wave would seem to be nothing more than the same sort of unidirectional propaganda that Belarus is accused of itself. “Belarus is a dictatorship”, “Belarus has a terrible human rights record”, “The Belarus vote was unfair”; The same things over andover and over again. One begins to wonder exactly why there is such an endless energy and market for this sort of talk. And more to the point, one also begins to wonder why the west continues to go on and on in the same fashion. What is the west so afraid of that they feel they must bury Belarus in a blizzard of intolerant words.

    It has at least been mentioned these days that president Lukashenka is popular in Belarus. But how can this be if he is supposed to be so abusive and dictatorial? One would think the public reaction would be the opposite of what it is.

    Perhaps the reason for this popularity comes from the fact that Belarus is a very socialist country and was, absolutely and happily, a communist country during the time of the Soviet Union. What this means is that the population as a whole lived forever with a group-think perspective and in a culture that demanded of its people not to try and become rich, not to fight unnecessarily for resources and to try and live reasonably and peacefully together. What was not wanted were the sorts of scandals so prevalent in the western world where being stirred up leads to the nessestiy of buying one’s cure. What was wanted was peaceful co-existence.

    If one really wanted to know about Alexander Lukashenka’s popularity, one need not look any further than to the president’s speeches. “We live peacefully with our neighbors”, “We are a non-aggressive country” and “We have built what we have with our own hands.” This is the language of the last Dictator of Europe. There is nothing in his speeches about power, there is nothing there about winning any battles, there is just a simple plea for peace and for perhaps some interest in being reasonable with each other about finding the necessary resources so that we may all live and this absolutly represents the will of the people of Belarus.

    If the west’s propaganda war were to succeed, all that would really happen would be that Belarus would lose whatever identity it has and become just another commercial stopover for business travelers. There would no longer be anything interesting or special or even peaceful about the place after all of the advertising and usage started to take hold. And perhaps it is this that Belarusians do not want most of all.

    The time of glasnost and perestroika were about trying to find the peaceful and reasonable common ground between east and west. The hope from this side of the curtain was that an exchange of what either had to offer might lead to both a calmer world and a better economic situation for this part of the world. That there was nothing learn from the west but greed and unilateral usury was probably a shock at first, but these days and for the better part of the last decade the lessons of the west, as hard as they were to accept, have been learned. And along with those lessons comes the knowledge that a bad deal will be a bad deal regardless of how slick the face selling it is, and this is why the west was rejected here by the voting public and why their continuing to berate and strike at Belarus in the press had the opposite effect than intended.

    Perhaps it is time to rethink things a bit. Hopelessness breeds real anger and discontent and the former USSR has already shown its willingness to deal with those in opposition harshly. Why has Russia and Belarus done business with Iran in the field of nuclear fuel? Because this was a profitable business venture that was avaialble. And it was available because of a unidirectional western ideology. Because of this, now after 15 years without it, we are now being treated to the specter once again of a nuclear confrontation. These are the results of making war rather than peace.These are the results of constant annoyance and bother.

    Is this what the west had in mind? Is this what they wanted? Or did they think that they were within their rights to simply take what they wanted without regard to the people they were stealing from.

    It is time to stop the noise and work out the problems.