European Alliance To Suspend Belarus's State Broadcaster Over 'Exceptional Concerns'
By RFE/RL May 29, 2021
The executive board of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has voted to suspend Belarus's national broadcaster over "serious and quite exceptional concerns" that threaten freedom of expression and other "core values."
The alliance of public-service media said on May 28 that it had been "closely monitoring the suppression of media freedom in Belarus" and Belteleradio's (BTRC) actions amid the crackdown on dissent since Alyaksandr Lukashenka's disputed claim of reelection in August.
"In light of these exceptional developments, the Executive Board has no alternative other than to propose the suspension of BTRC's membership of the EBU," it said.
Belteleradio has two weeks to respond before the suspension comes into effect, the EBU said.
The group cited "particular alarm" at the recent "broadcast of interviews apparently obtained under duress."
That was possibly a reference to the broadcast this week of separate videos showing a detained Belarusian journalist, Raman Pratasevich, and his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.
Both were seized by Belarusian authorities on May 23 after the forced diversion of their Ryanair flight between Athens and Vilnius by a Belarusian fighter jet in what has been widely condemned as a "state hijacking."
"The EBU has been closely monitoring the suppression of media freedom in Belarus and have consistently called on BTRC, as a member of the EBU, to uphold our core values of freedom of expression, independence, and accountability," the alliance said in a statement.
"Since the disputed elections last summer, we have been campaigning for the protection of independent journalism and freedom of expression in the country," it said.
"We have publicly supported journalists at BTRC who have been protesting against government interference. We have also been monitoring BTRC's coverage and have communicated our concerns to their management."
The EBU is an alliance of public-service media organizations, with more than 100 member organizations operating nearly 2,000 television, radio, and online networks in 56 countries in Europe and beyond.
In March, it excluded Belarus from the Eurovision Song Contest for failing to submit an entry that complied with the nonpolitical nature of the competition.
Minsk denounced that Eurovision decision as "politically motivated."
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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