Circumventing Censorship in Belarus

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Speakers: Daria Minsky, leading media outlets kyky.org and The Village Belarus.

Moderator: Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director at the Vienna-based International Press Institute


December 1st, 2020; 18:00-18:50 CET


Written by Mauricio Mandujano Manriquez


Keywords: Journalism, Freedom, Independent Media


Short annotation, summary: Over the last decades, Alexander Lukashenko’s government has been cracking down on independent media and journalists alike, withering the state of its Democracy. However, in recent years, the development of the internet has engendered a highly engaged community in the messaging app Telegram, providing Belorussians with reliable information about developments in the country.


The project or approach to be discussed in the session

In the light of the hard crackdown on freedom of expression in Belarus by Lukashenko’s government, the independent journalists hves employed Telegram to circumvent censorship. Nonetheless, journalism in Belarus remains a dangerous profession within the country. This has left independent journalists such as Daria Minsky, her projects kyky.org and The Village Belarus, to deliver news from abroad across these networks.

- Belarus Independent Journalism from Abroad

- Telegram and IT synergies

- Decentralization of content


Evidence of impact

Daria Minsky, her projects kyky.org and The Village Belarus, have recently become more widespread across Belarus. Before the summer protests, the Telegram channel used by her company had just over 3 Million post views and by the end of July, it had already surpassed the 1.5 Billion mark. According to Daria Minsky, this development connotes the adoption of such channels by the whole society rather than just the youth.


Limitations, risks of the approach provided by the speaker

There are two main risks associated with independent journalism spread through Telegram. On one hand if people operate within the country, they are still subjected to persecution and arrested by the government. This was the case of Daria Minsky’s media company as all her assets were frozen and many of the journalists arrested. On the other hand, the lack of professional formation makes the spread of information less reliable. Sometimes independent journalists lack the proper know-how to vet knowledge and fact-check claims. In one instance, a police officer was falsely accused and suffered mob criticism and threats.


Takeaways

- Independent media and alternative journalism should be complemented with traditional media.

- Despite the ongoing government crackdown of protests in Belarus, people are ready to go out no matter how long it takes to achieve their goals.

- The synergy between the IT community, independent journalism and protests in Belarus has provided a constant challenge to state-sponsored media.

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