Belarusian state media was one of the things propping up Lukashenka’s dictatorship by broadcasting lies on the situation in the country. Meanwhile, journalists from a few independent media constantly found themselves in great danger.
The parallel reality created by the state media started to collapse as hundreds of thousands all over the country took to the streets to oppose the falsified presidential election results, which alleged the dictator had won for the sixth time in a row. In the first days of the protests when the Internet was shut down in the country, Telegram-channels which managed to avoid being blocked took the lead on reporting from the streets. Independent online platforms joined.
Starting from 11 August, following the mass violence of law enforcers against the Belarusian people, some journalists from the state media started to resign, saying they cannot support the dictatorship’s lies anymore.
⚡️Lukashenka: Do not go out to the streets now. They use you and our children as cannon fodder! Many people came here from Poland, Netherlands, Ukraine, Open Russia, Navalny, and so on. The aggression has already begun against the country." pic.twitter.com/IT5Fc53r93
— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) August 14, 2020
These include journalists from the state’s Belarus 1, STV, the First Channel of the Belarusian radio, Belarus TV and Radio Company, ONT, NTV-Belarus, and Belta.
One of those who resigned is Dmitry Semchenko, Head of the presidential pool of journalists on ONT and TV presenter. As TUT.BY informs, Semchenko refused to comment himself, but the media quotes him referring to its own source.
“The extreme brutality of the riot police killed all of us, ONT journalists. Everyone has a relative or friend who is seriously hurt. Many guys immediately refused to do outright rabble. Someone went on sick leave, someone on termless leave.”
Alexander Luchonok, correspondent of the TV channel Belarus 1 admitted that he “no longer wants to keep silent,” so he decided to quit a few weeks ago.
“Don’t take people for fools! Society has grown, it has become better educated.”
This is happening in #Europe in 2020. Just terrible.
— Alex Kokcharov (@AlexKokcharov) August 12, 2020
That is how Artem Bruylov, presenter of the Brest TV and Radio Company commented on his resignation.
“It was my dream and I reached it. But I cannot continue to work in the current situation. This is my own decision. And a clear principled position. I do not want to support the current government and those who carry out its orders. I stand for honesty and justice! I hope that everything will change soon. And I will also work as a TV presenter in our country.”
Even those working for entertainment programs started to resign.
Tatyana Borodkina, presenter at STV wrote that neither she nor her children will be able to smile from the TV screen anymore. Together with her daughters, Tatiana hosted a morning program on a state television channel.
“Congratulations to the country who made the ‘choice’! I don’t know when you will read my post, because they block the Internet. But understand that even now, when the ‘choice’ has already been made I am not afraid! Friends! People! And you also don’t be afraid! Do not take the future away from our children!”
Borodkina told TUT.BY that she had not prolonged her contract, but on 13 August, newscasts with her still were broadcasted.
Andrey Makaenko, a famous comedian and presenter of the TV channel Belarus-1 and Pilot FM Radio, said that he left some time ago, but did not want to draw too much attention to him.
“It’s hard to say ‘good morning’ if in fact, it’s not very good. Previously, I always remained neutral, because I was sure: when the situation is not very good, there must be a positive person who supports everyone with his smile. But now I understand that my smiles from TV are probably no longer needed. This smile is rather blasphemous; in the current situation in the country, it no longer inspires the audience.”
A professional community of Belarusian publishers of the regional press United Mass Media also released its statement, saying that they were worried not only about the fate of the journalists but also of the readers, Belarusian people who were living for the fourth day in the “state of the civil war.”
Journalists targeted by riot police
The police attacked the groups of journalists. They smashed photo cameras of @AP reporter Siarhei Hryts, confiscated flash card with all photos from @nashaniva photojournalist Nadzieja Yuzhan. pic.twitter.com/W0updyKq0a
— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) August 11, 2020
On 13 August, journalists from Belarusian state media penned an official letter to the minister of information, underscoring that the resignations of their colleagues were not fakes, but “a call of conscience.” They also asked to release the journalists detained by the riot police.
“Journalists are not participants of the protests. According to the Law on Media, the Constitution, and international legislation, they can cover the protests. Moreover, the media are obliged to comprehensively report on current events. The use of violence by law enforcement officers against journalists who perform their professional duties is unacceptable,” the statement said.
As of the late evening of 13 August, more than 160 people signed the statement, as it was open to all Belarusian journalists, not only those from the state media.
According to the data of the Belarusian Association of Journalists NGO, as of 13 August, 23 journalists were still imprisoned, out of the 68 who were detained starting from 9 August. There were 29 incidents of violence and injuries of journalists.
The site of the NGO also contains data on journalists who suffered aggression from the law enforcers and were detained from the beginning of 2020.
Meanwhile, a criminal case was opened against the 22-year old founder of the popular Telegram-channels NEXTA Stepan Putila, as NEXTA informs. He is accused of organizing mass riots which can be punished up to 15 years in jail.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) August 15, 2020
— NowBelarus (@NowBelarus) August 15, 2020
UPDATE, 15.08.2020, 20:07.
The wave of resignations of journalists of state media continued.