Public campaign on social networks prompted authorities to soften repressions
The Education Ministry has commented on the story with the students of the Brest Regional Cadet School, who have photographed in T-shirts with the "Pahonia" coat of arms under their uniforms. Initially, the media reported that the cadets were expelled from the school by the administration for posting photos with the “Pahonia” symbol on their T-shirts on the Internet. Social networks reacted immediately with a campaign in support for the students. Most likely, the campaign in social networks and information pressure have influenced the government’s decision to abandon the use of rigid repressive measures against young people and forced the school administration to revoke the expulsion. Until now, politicized campaigns in social networks have not had any noticeable impact on the authorities, especially with regard to easing repression against their opponents. However, online activity is unlikely to lead to greater a number of participants in the opposition activities, including street rallies and election campaigns.
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.