"Media Freedom is an Unconditional European Value"
The foreign guests of the 10th International Minsk Forum, held in the capital of Belarus on November, 22-25, shared their vision of the freedom of speech and independent media in the country with the BAJ press-service.
“Speaking about the EU policy and the possible EU-Belarus rapprochement one needs to stress the values shared by the EU member-states and their close neighbors”, noted Marieluise Beck, a Bundestag member (Bundnis 90/Die Grunen). “By saying so I do not only mean the basic human rights, but also their integral part – the right to the freedom of speech and media freedom. As far as I know, the freedom of speech and the right to freely provide information about the current events are still non-existent in Belarus”.
According to Volker Weichsel, the representative of the German Association for the Study of Eastern Europe and the editor-in-chief of “Eastern Europe” Journal, the issue of the freedom of speech is a top priority for his organization which holds special seminars and conferences on the issue.
“We are closely cooperating with the Belarusian Journal “Arche” as we are fellow-members of a European cultural network of journals. I know the situation with media freedom in your country and I believe it is grave. My assessment is not limited to the printed press. There is no independent television in your country while the existing channels propagate the views of the ruling elite", underscored Mr. Weichsel.
The editor of “Eastern Europe” is aware of the distribution and financial hardships plaguing Belarusian press, which account for small circulation of independent printed press. “The problem of media freedom should be among the core issues during the negotiations of the European Union with the Belarusian authorities, who are willing to enter the European neighborhood policy”, believes Volker Weichsel.
Alexander Rar, a political scientist and a representative of the German Society for Foreign Policy, stated that organizing the Minsk Forum and allowing to speak freely at the event may be an attempt “to pull down the barricades”. “It is very difficult to compare the Belarusian “civil society” with the German one. However, one should bear in mind that it took Germany a long time to consolidate democracy. The point is that journalists should feel they are living and working in a free civilized society and that only under such conditions will Belarus grow stronger”, stated Alexander Rar.