Belsat’s 7th anniversary: Yuliya Slutskaya invited to talk about Belarus’ independent media
Seven years ago, Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed a contract with the Polish state TV station to create ‘Belsat’ – the first independent Belarusian TV station. On their seventh anniversary, Belsat invited media expert, Yuliya Slutskaya, to comment on the general state of journalism in Belarus.
The director of Solidarity with Belarus Information Office talked about censorship, persecution and repression by the authorities, and the development of independent media. ‘The first independent media appeared in the early nineties. In Belarus, the media [from the Soviet times] was not privatised, unlike in all the other post-Soviet countries at the time. All the independent media were set up as private media and were relatively successful. In 1995, these media had circulations of hundreds of thousands. Despite not having state subsidies or preferential costs for state media, independent media was competitive as long as the government didn’t apply pressure’.
According to Yuliya Slutskaya, circulations began to fall due to the pressure – but pressure was the primary reason. ‘When there is no market, there is no direction for development. When there is propaganda, contra-propaganda appears. None of these things help development. And when media cannot exist in market conditions, it cannot develop’.
Ms. Slutskaya opined that the current events in Ukraine are very useful for Belarusian journalists from a professional viewpoint. ‘This was the first time that Belarusian journalists had the opportunity to work in a conflict zone. They have little practical experience in this, and are in a weaker position than their counterparts in other countries. But it is useful experience. We are observing a major information war against the Ukrainian authorities and people. But Ukraine is taking measures and is responding. When there is such an information burst, people’s interest goes up. This is now happening in Ukraine. They were able to create their own strong information channels. Are we also able to? This is the question.’
Yuliya Slutskaya is the founder and director of Solidarity with Belarus Information Office. She was the chief editor of European Radio for Belarus’ editorial office in Minsk (2007-2010), and, prior to that, chief editor of Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belarusi.