Belarus - Media Landscape
|Suffrage||Universal; 18 yrs of age|
|Currency||Belarusian ruble (BYB/BYR)|
|Population||9.8 m (2007)|
|Area||207. 600 sq km|
|Total imports (%EU)||€17.7 bn (2006) (21%)|
|Total exports (%EU)||€15.6 bn (2006) (44%)|
|GDP||€23.4 bn (2006)|
|GDP per capita||€2.410 (2006)|
|Internet users (per 1000 people)||560 (2007)|
|Languages||Belarusian, Russian, other|
The state of the press in Belarus deteriorated sharply during the presidential elections in March 2006. The government suppressed the media and many newspapers were shut down. In 2006, according to Sebastian Usher, a BBC World correspondent, Belarus tightened the control of the media and intensified harassment of independent and foreign journalists in the run-up to the presidential election. The aim was to keep President Alexander Lukashenko in power at all costs.
According to Freedom House, an organisation which investigates the level of press freedom in each country, the government imprisoned more than 30 Belarusian journalists – in addition to12 foreign journalists from countries like Canada, Poland, Russia and Ukraine in 2006. They were arrested for covering the elections and opposition demonstrations.
In order to survive and continue their work, Belarusian journalists are reviving traditions of underground printing, publishing material without any official registration. These publications are directed at different target groups.
The official law of Belarus about press and other mass media states that the citizens of the Republic of Belarus are guaranteed freedom of press and other mass media. Citizens are by law guaranteed freedom of speech and information. Yet, the presidential administration largely controls the content of media and the appointment of senior editors of state media.
The European Commission in 2006 funded a consortium of Polish, Lithuanian, German, Russian and Belarusian broadcasters in an aim to increase access to independent news via radio, TV and the Internet. The two-year project gave rise to the stations European Radio for Belarus and Radio Baltic Wave. These stations broadcast programmes suited to youth.
The written press in Belarus includes both privately-held and state-owned newspapers. The state-owned newspapers make up about 85 percent of total circulation. The newspaper with the highest circulation is state-owned, the Sovetskaya Belarussia – Belarus segodnya, with a circulation of 500.000. Other newspapers include Svaboda, Komsomolskaya Pravda v. Belarusi, private newspaper Intex-press, Hantsavitski Chais, Brestskiy Kuryer, Inform-progulka, with its circulation of 7.000 copies. Also, Rehijanalnaya Hazeta, the Respublika, which is a daily newspaper published by the Cabinet of Ministers, and Beloruskaya Gazeta and Sovietskaya Byelorussia.
There are approximately 30 privately-owned political papers operating in Belarus. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, about half of these non-state-supported periodicals are excluded from state-backed means of distribution, i.e. via kiosks and subscription.
There is a difference between the circulation and distribution of state and non-state media in Belarus. This is because state-run newspapers have the advantage of administrative support and financing, an amount which is increased every year. Non-state media face the challenge of strict supervision from local executive bodies.
The government also uses economical means to limit the operation of non-state media. The presidential administration routinely pressurises heads of state- companies to advertise only in government-loyal newspapers. Other means include ordering banks to deny donations from readers into independent newspapers’ accounts and ensuring that printing presses deny contracts from non-state media.
Newspapers are written in either Belarusian or Russian, which are both official languages of Belarus. Some of the newspapers also have an English edition.
Belarus has about nine press organisations. Most run their own websites, six of which are available in English. These are:
- Belarusian Information Company
- Belarusian Telegraph Agency
- Ecopress Information Agency
- Vladimir Grevtsov Agency
- Belarus Bureau Prime-Tass
- Belarusian News Agency Belta
Media organisations with a website published only in Belarusian include:
Of the 216 media outlets operating in Belarus, 183 are state-owned. The remaining 53 are non-state media outlets. All broadcasters are required not to go outside the boundaries of their operating licenses. The National State TV and Radio Company dominates the broadcast market. According to estimates of the Belarusian Association of Journalist (BAJ), there are 31 FM radio stations running in Belarus. Fifteen of these broadcast from Minsk. The license needed for television broadcasting is available at the Republican Commission on Television and Radio Broadcasting. The chair of this group is the Belarusian minister of information. In order to start broadcasting, groups have to meet high criteria. Non-resident foreign nationals or stateless persons are not allowed to set up a television or radio broadcast. The only producer of broadcast news is the Belarussian Television and Radio Company (BT). The BT runs 27 television channels.
The authority to give out a license to own a radio broadcast lies with the Republican Commission on Television and Radio Broadcasting. The channels vary in language. There Belarusian and Russian language channels, in addition to those available in English. Most of these channels are available on the radio, but some of them are only available via Internet, such as Drum Wave Radio, Radio TUT.
During the past few years Internet penetration has increased enormously within Belarus. It increased from nearly no one using it in the year 2000 to more than half of the population using the medium in 2007, as shown in the following table:
Belarus has six radio and television channels which can only be found online. Furthermore, two of the national newspapers publish only an online edition, Ezhednevnik and Neopolis. All radio channels, television channels and newspapers also publish on the Internet. Besides these, one can also find other online press websites, namely Nashe Mneniye, Electronic-Barysau and TUT.by.
The blogosphere in Belarus is vibrant. Furthermore, one can find many blogs about the political situation in Belarus, created outside the country. A sample of blogs:
Belarusian authorities have shown time and time again that they can block the work of independent Internet sites. There have been cases in which the Belarusian authorities have simply redirected sites channels to various pro-government websites. In order to avoid such situations in the future, efforts to create a website security system are necessary.
The unitary enterprise Beltelecom has a monopoly on telecommunications within Belarus. It is state owned. Recent estimates state that 2.239.300 Belarusians own a mobile phone. There are 3.175.900 people who have access to a fixed line.
Learning and support
The Belarusian State University is the only university which provides journalism training. The university has a faculty of journalism that offers basic training in print, audiovisual and online journalism.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists also provides mid career journalistic training. BAJ is a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit professional union of media workers. It works to defend the legitimate rights of journalists and campaigns for promoting the freedom of expression in the country.
- Bel Gazeta
- The National Center of Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus
- Radio Tut
- Internet World Stats
- Ask4geo (N/A)
TV Infoservice (ATN)
9, Makayonka Street
Tel.: (+375-17) 263 82 58
Fax: (+375-17) 263 15 81
School of Journalism
Belarusian State University
Pr. Skoriny 4
Tel. (7-0172) 270-606, fax 265-940