Minsk prepares to counter information pressure from Kremlin
Regnum news agency Chief Editor and former employee of the Belarusian presidential administration Yuri Baranchik was detained in Moscow following a request from the Investigative Committee. Minsk is becoming more aware of the information component in the Russo-Belarusian relations and drawing red lines as regards the criticism of the Belarusian leadership in the Russian media. The Russian media have stepped up coverage of protests against the decree on ‘social dependants’ in Belarus; yet reports have not conveyed a specific attitude to protests in Belarusian cities. Apparently, Minsk is afraid of increased information pressure from the Kremlin amid lingering tension in the Russo-Belarusian relations and compulsion to sign the EEU customs code, which should come into force on July 1st, 2017.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.