Zhanna Litvina: I expect from Lithuania the firm and principled standing in all issues of freedom of speech…
A conference “What Belarus should expect from Lithuanian presidency in the EU?” took place on March 26 in the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. The conference was arranged within the “Belarusian Week in Vilnius” dedicated to the 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic.
The conference was organized by Emanuelis Zingeris, deputy chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Seimas, and Stasys Kaušinis, head of the Civil Defense Assistance Fund.
Among the participants of the conference, there were the former Prime Minister of Lithuania Andrius Kubilius, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrius Krivas, and other members of parliament. Belarus was represented by the first head of the independent Belarus, chairperson of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Stanislau Shushkevich, chairperson of BAJ Zhanna Litvina, human rights defender Valiantsin Stefanovich, political scientist Yury Chavusau, and relatives of political prisoners.
The main wish to Lithuania as the president of the EU is to stick to the principle demand to release and rehabilitate all political prisoners.
Zhanna Litvina has drawn attention to the journalistic aspect in the current human rights situation. She says the main symptom of the indifferent attitude towards human rights in Belarus is the fact that the Special Rapporteur on Belarus of the Human Rights Council Miklós Haraszti is denied entry visa to Belarus. She also reminded of the steps that could improve the actual situation.
“The first step is to introduce a moratorium on five discriminatory criminal articles: libeling the President and other officials, discrediting the Republic of Belarus, and activities on behalf of unregistered NGOs. At least a moratorium, if not a complete removal! The second step is to introduce an application-based principle of accreditation for journalists. At present a journalist without accreditation, a freelancer – is nobody, outside the law...These are minor half-steps that would indicate that Belarus is at least discussing it! And of course interference into journalists’ activities and detentions must be abandoned. These are the conditions for continuing discussion of rapprochement between the European Union and Belarus.”
Emanuelis Zingeris in his turn informed that alongside with the summit of the Eastern Partnership, planned for November 28, 2013 in Vilnius, an informal summit is going to be held with representatives of civil society organizations from the EP countries. He also said that an idea dawned on him just then to invite the Special Rapporteur on Belarus Miklós Haraszti to present his report on Belarus, that is being compiled, at the event.
Zhanna Litvina underlined that she insists on establishing communication between the Special Rapporteur and the Belarusian authorities. “The more our state ignores the post of the Special Rapporteur, the more it is banning entry to the country, the more it spoils its image.”
What are the expectations of the chairperson of BAJ related to the Lithuanian presidency in the EU?
“First of all, I expect the firm and principled standing in all issues of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Belarus. Because none rapprochement, none modernization processes are possible without solving the inner problems in the sphere of mass media.”