As social tension grows, demand for independent media steps up in Belarusian society
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said that the Ministry would not stop funding the Belsat TV channel, albeit would curtail such support. Despite the fact that Belsat is unavailable through cable networks in Belarus, its Youtube channel has become the leader among the Belarusian media (35 million views in March alone) when covering the protest movement in February-March and, most likely, had had a significant impact on public moods in Belarus. Belsat coverage of social protests caused a nervous response from the Belarusian law enforcers and the country's top leadership. The authorities changed the law enforcement practice and deprived some journalists of protection guaranteed by the Media Law. Despite the possible cuts in funding and pressure from the Belarusian authorities, independent media successfully compete with the state media in shaping public opinion thanks to modern information and communication technologies. Apparently, as tension in Belarusian society grows, demand for independent information and independent media outlets will increase.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.