Belarusian authorities want higher impact from ideological outreach

December 05, 2016 8:45
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Recently, public institutions and government agencies responsible for ideology in Belarus have been under an extensive information attack. Ideology departments, pro-government organisations and political parties have faced an increased competition for dwindling state resources. The Belarusian government is likely to revise its ideology strategy in order to ensure greater feedback from the population and fine-tune performance criteria.

On November 29th, 2016, the Congress of the Belarusian Writers Union was held at the Belarusian State Philharmonic.

Controversies have shaken the state ideology sector, which was likely due to funding cuts and anticipation of further deterioration. For instance, independent media reported about alleged abuse of power and financial fraud by the deputy chief of administration in a Belarusian region. The controversy has affected some pro-government organisations he is a member of, including the loyal Communist Party of Belarus and the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, which receives substantial support from the state.

Following the information attack on the ideology sector, GoNGOs and pro-government parties, media also reported about abuses in the Orthodox Church. That said, the government prioritises cooperation with the Orthodox Church to all other confessions and has a special cooperation agreement signed back in 2003. Thanks to the agreement, the Orthodox Church has some privileges and additional opportunities to reach out to the population.

At the Congress, which gathered over 500 participants, staunch writers appealed to the authorities to step up the state support for the Belarusian Writers Union members. Simultaneously, the Congress was marked by a conflict between some participants and the police. The public row involving writers is likely to reduce drastically their prospects for increased support from the state and will give the authorities additional opportunity to criticise their activity.

The state encourages competition in the ideological sector and demands greater involvement and visible results in ensuring people’s loyalty to the Belarusian authorities.

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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.