Belarusian army is forced to change information policy

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September 04, 2017 11:29

The Belarusian Defence Ministry has demonstrated greater openness, which was a forced step dictated by external circumstances, independent of the generals’ will. Minsk is fighting for credits from all parties in the ongoing confrontation in Eastern Europe, which, inter alia, requires greater transparency of military activity in Belarus.

On July 12th, 2017, the Belarusian Defence Ministry organised a briefing on West-2017 military drill at the OSCE Security Forum in Vienna. According to the Ministry, about 150 journalists have already accredited to cover the West-2017 exercise and accreditation is still ongoing.

On August 29th, 2017, Chief of the General Staff of the Belarusian Army Oleg Belokonev for the first time held a briefing dedicated to the forthcoming Belarusian-Russian drill. Although the briefing itself was not sufficient in terms of the format and information provided, it was a significant step towards greater transparency of the military.

Negative media coverage of the forthcoming Russo-Belarusian military drill and fears of political provocations have prompted the Belarusian military leadership to change its information policy. The Defence Ministry comprehends the importance of publicity in contemporary society and, despite the inherent military conservatism, has demonstrated willingness to change approaches. Having stepped over their fears and insecurities, the generals, evidently with the approval of the Belarus’ top political leadership, have demonstrated greater openness in the preparation and conduct of the "West-2017" exercise (albeit still insufficient in modern society). The Defence Ministry has ambitions to become a moderator on defence issues in Belarus.

The process aimed to enhance the transparency of the Belarusian military has been launched, but it will take a while to implement, due to both, the inherent conservatism of the army and limited technical and human capacity of the Defence Ministry required to ensure high-quality information support for the Ministry activity. Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry has the idea of the importance of publicity in modern conditions, and has acknowledged its weakness in this regard.

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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.