Belarus information security risks linked with Eurasian integration

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April 22, 2016 18:32

On June 18th, “The Integration” International Fund published poll results about trust levels to opposition politicians in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In three countries 2,700 people were questioned aged between 18 and 65, statistical error not more than 3%.

Belarusian authorities have not yet publicly reacted to the interference by a foreign sociological service with the Belarus’ political agenda. Potentially the authorities will enhance control over public polls in Belarus by enacting stricter laws.

The poll organized by the ‘Integration’ fund threatens the established by the Belarusian ruling group information monopoly. First, the fund operates in several countries (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Belarus), which enables it to carry out large-scale information and research projects. Second, the fund pursues formally a flawless goal - to promote integration among post-Soviet states.

However, the poll’s content contradicts its form and may be considered by the Belarusian authorities as information diversion. Formally, the poll aimed at studying the mistrust level towards opposition politicians in three countries. However the poll failed to study the trust levels towards the authorities, which de facto could be regarded as hidden advertisement of the opposition and as an attempt to put pressure on the countries’ leaders.

In particular, pollsters argue that in Belarus former presidential candidate Nyaklyayeu enjoys the greatest trust (16%), he is followed by Milinkevich (12%), Lyabedzka (11%), Sannikov (9%) and Shushkevich (8%). Simultaneously, Neklyaev enjoys the lowest mistrust - 32%. Other listed opposition politicians have mistrust levels higher than 45%. The poll’s results demonstrate higher trust levels than domestic electoral support poll results held by IISEPS.

So far the Belarusian authorities have not responded to this information. A year ago, Belarus drafted changes to the Administrative offences’ Code, which envisaged penalties for sociological services operating in Belarus without a license. The amendments have not been adopted, but following an order, Belarusian MPs may well resume considering these amendments and prevent foreign polling services from operating in Belarus.

Such a response would be the most logical for the Belarusian authorities, since Belarus is unable to organize similar polls in Russia (mainly due to financial restraints).

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President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.

President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.

The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.

The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.

The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.

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