‘Issues of Death Penalty Use in Belarus’ through journalists’ eyes
On 26-27 November Minsk hosted the seminar ‘Issues of Death Penalty Use in Belarus and their Coverage by Mass Media’, arranged by the Russia-based NGO ‘Penal Reform International’ and the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The event’s objective was teaching the media to apply more professional and unbiased means when covering the issue of the death penalty.
The seminar participants were addressed by human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich and sociologist Andrei Vardamatski.
Valiantsin Stefanovich spoke on the historical aspects and approaches to the issue in various countries. He expanded on the legal basis of the death penalty and the history of its use in Belarus.
Andrei Vardamatski talked of the recent public opinion polls on the issue of the death penalty abolition both in Belarus and abroad. According to the data provided by the Novak laboratory, 39 per cent of Belarusians speak in favour of the abolition of the death penalty, with 49 % against it.
The analyst is sure the misbalance may be corrected through a well-organized media campaign.
Despite numerous claims by Belarusian officials that the issue is of great interest to the society, state-run media, particularly the public TV and major newspapers, still tend to be unwilling to provide a full-scale coverage of the issue.
Media expert Aliaksandr Koktysh said that it were the independent media who paid especial attention to the death penalty abolition.
Summarizing the seminar activities, Sergey Shimovolos, programme coordinator of the ‘Penal Reform International’, expressed his hope that cooperation with the media would be continued and the issue of the death penalty would receive a broader coverage by Belarusian mass media.