PACE delegation meets with independent mass media
‘We would like to see it with our own eyes – whether this is a ‘face-lift’ or a genuine will to move towards progress,’ said Andrea Rigoni, Special rapporteur on Belarus in the Council of Europe’s PACE, during his meeting with independent journalists on 17 February.
According to Zhanna Litvina, Chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, the meeting was meant for a number of independent Belarusian mass media. The European Parliament members were especially curious if a dialogue could help change the situation in Belarus.
‘The positive changes in the field of mass media we have been able to witness lately are not a system, for they have not changed the overall situation. That is what we dwelled upon during our meetings with the MPs. The Belarusian executive power keeps holding monopoly on mass media. So we expressed our fear that after all the advances by the EU the situation can revert. It is especially significant that the reform reached a certain ‘point of no return’. We need principle and cardinal changes in the field of mass media,’ said Mrs.Litvina.
The MPs also commented upon the recent statement by the state-owned TV channel, claiming that ‘Belarus has fulfilled all the terms and can now reckon that its special guest status will be restored’, saying that the decision on the restoration of Belarus’ status had not been passed yet, and therefore such statements are premature.
According to Mr.Rigoni, the visit is aimed at clearing a number of questions, e.g. whether Belarus really has no political prisoners, whether the freedom of speech has progressed, whether independent mass media can easily develop their activity, whether Internet is not censured, whether there is an intention to improve the electoral legislation with the help of the OSCE, whether the registrations procedures for political parties and NGOs have been simplified etc.
According to Chair of the PACE Political Affairs Committee Goran Lindblad, Andrea Rigoni is likely to initiate the restoration of Belarus’ special guest status.
He also said the PACE will take the recommendations by Pace’s ex-Rapporteur on Belarus Christos Pourgourides into account when considering the issue.
The European Parliament MPs also said the possibility of a joint delegation with representatives of both the Belarusian parliament and the opposition is currently under consideration.