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Andrei Bastunets:Hybrid Ukraine-Belarus TV-channel may open; but what network will it broadcast for?

26.12.2014  |  Society   |  Elena Borel, EuroBelarus,  
Andrei Bastunets:Hybrid Ukraine-Belarus TV-channel may open; but what network will it broadcast for?

Is Ukrainian TV to broadcast in Belarus? Why alternative to Russian propaganda was suddenly allowed, while independent media are to suffer from repressions due to amendments in the law on mass media?

An agreement about the formation of the joint TV-channel of Belarus and Ukraine was reached during the negotiations of Lukashenka and Poroshenko in Kiev on December 21.

We already have such experience: our channels work together with Russian ones. Why can’t we create such cooperation together with Ukraine? – Belarus President stated at the meeting. – That is why we should not forget about it and we should do it. We need to establish a channel in Belarus”.

Ukraine President in his turn stated that he would entrust the Information Minister with this task.

“We have long ago been discussing the fact that Belarusans have a right to know different points of view, and it would be nice for one of the Ukraine’s information channels to have an opportunity to broadcast at Belarus’ territory”, - Petro Poroshenko said.

Next day, on December 22, Ukrainian Information Minister Yury Stets informed that Ukrainian TV will be broadcasted at Belarus’ territory as early as in January 2015, and it will not be a bilateral project, but a total translation of “The First International” Ukraine TV-channel.

Will Belarusans hear Ukrainian speech, and will our audience get to know news about developments in Donbas from “Bandera fighters” themselves? “EuroBelarus” Information Service talked about it with Andrei Bastunets, a lawyer, Deputy Head of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ).

- At the meeting with Petro Poroshenko Belarus President announced about the desire to create a common Belarus-Ukraine TV-channel. What do you think, is it at all real with the channel’s broadcasting an absolutely opposite position to Russia?

- In general, the information spread by the Ukrainian side differs from the information of the Belarusan side: the latter talk about broadcasting of “The First International” Ukraine TV-channel, while Belarusans claim that the common Belarus-Ukraine TV-channel will be opened.

I tend to think that the visit of the Belarusan President was important before his visit to Russia on December 23 as one of the arguments for exerting pressure on Russia.

- I.e. we shouldn’t take Lukashenka’s statement re Ukrainian broadcasting in Belarus seriously, should we?

- It would be better if the Ukrainian TV-channels had not disappeared from the cable networks but appeared there, as Russia’s unlimited possibilities to broadcast for Belarusan audience cannot but concern Belarusan authorities.

But let’s see how it will be in reality – it is less than a month before we get an answer.

- Will the new channel manage to break the existing Russian pattern of Belarusan TV-broadcasting?

- In Belarus hybrid Russian-Belarusan TV-channels are included in generally available obligatory pack of TV-channels. Thus, the appearance of a similar Belarusian-Ukrainian TV-channel is also possible, and it is in this direction that the negotiations between Belarus and Ukraine have been taking place. However, the question is whether this channel will appear in generally available networks or it will rather broadcast for local cable networks.

- Can we talk about the broadcast in Belarus of a channel with an alternative view on Ukrainian events, if after the actual devaluation on “Black Friday” a number of websites were blocked, including news agency BelaPAN. What, in your opinion, caused the ban of the information agency?

- In order not to guess, BAJ is trying to find it out from the officials. There is no official information; so we will send our appeal and wait for the answer.

We note that such ban doesn’t correspond to the Belarus’ legislation; it violates legal rights and interests of citizens, journalists, and legal entities – editors of mass media. We are appealing to the General Prosecutor’s Office asking to institute criminal proceedings.

- What do you think, are amendments to the law that are to start working from January 1, 2015 aimed at limiting the possibilities for the editors of Belarusan websites and journalists on the threshold of elections?

- Yes, indeed. However, it might be related not only to election, but also to the economic situation we are in now. The only thing I should note is that this law is to take effect on January 1, but before this happens some normative acts in its realization are to be adopted by the Information Ministry in particular. And what is happening now is anticipating not only for 2 weeks, but for a much longer term.

- Does it mean that in 2015 we are to expect a real wave against the independent media – a wave of warnings and closures?

- I think we are already here.

- The Information Ministry will give prescriptions to the Internet-resources, but it is unable to ban the access to the websites located out of Belarus’ border, out of Bynet. However, they are still available from Opera Turbo or from anonymizers…

- Yes, it is possible. But in general, the Information Ministry and the Communications Ministry got the right to ban access to undesirable websites in and out of the country; so they can just ask an Internet provider to ban the access to these websites.

- Can we name it a beginning of the end for the independent media in Belarus?

- As far as I remember, statements about Belarusan independent media that are struggling to survive are everywhere. However, we are still alive and I think, we’ll be living.

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