Category : Belarus

Obituary: Vera Rich

Judith Vidal-Hall pays tribute to a tireless campaigner for free expression in the former Soviet Union

An audience with the Iron Lady of Minsk

Rohan Jayasekera encounters the imperious and elegant first deputy head of the Belarus presidential administration, Natalia Petkevich, Minsk's Iron Lady of censorship.

Uphill struggle for Belarus journalists

Freedom of expression groups joined forces this month to investigate the obstacles facing independent media in Belarus; censorship made possible by the combination of a number of blunt-edged tools into a deceptively sophisticated system of media control. Rohan Jayasekera comments from Minsk.

Sexual threats against editor in Belarus

Natalia Radizina, the editor of Charter 97 an oppostion news website in Belarus has received an email threatening violence of a sexual nature if she was not careful about what she chose to post. This followed a report by Charter 97 on a pro-Russian neo-fascist group. The website and those who work there have been […]

Criticisms of Defiance are part of vital debate

James Bond star Daniel Craig’s film Defiance, based on the true story of the Bielski resistance in wartime Poland, has run into opposition in the country. The Bielski partisans, named after leader Tuva Bielski and his brothers, formed in early 1942 in a part of Poland that is now western Belarsu, made up of Jews who had fled their homes as the Nazis began rounding people up to send to the camps. Put briefly, the group swelled to about 1,200 people, and gained a reputation for both efficiency and ingenuity in fighting Nazis, and brutality in carrying out sabotage, attacks and assassinations against collaborators. They also collaborated with the Red Army in attacks against German troops. Polish critics have said the film glosses over the brutality, painting Tuva Bielski as a straightforward action hero, a sort of anti-Nazi Robin Hood. The criticisms of the film do have some foundation, of course, but this is not a new phenomenon. Films dealing with historical figures will always be contentious, particularly ones that deal with historical figures involved in pivotal conflicts. When Neil Jordan brought out his biopic of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins in 1996, he was slated for several reasons: republicans accused him of over-simplification, particularly in his portrayal of Eamon De Valera as a pantomime Iago, a shifty creature whose sole purpose seemed to be to undermine the noble Collins. Unionists and British conservatives accused the film of glamorising the Irish armed struggle, and providing justifications for the modern-day IRA’s actions. Historians slated Jordan for conflating characters, altering fact, and, infamously, including a car-bomb attack on Dublin Castle officials (the technology to make that kind of car bomb simply did not exist at the time, they said). But did this mean Jordan had made a deceitful or ignorant film? No. Irish commentator Eoghan Harris (who, incidentally, had previously worked on his own Michael Collins film script) remarked that it was not that Jordan knew too little about Irish history, rather he knew too much (having studied Irish history at University College Dublin): and it was this impulse to squeeze as much knowledge, and as much significance, into a very conventional film narrative that had left him open to these criticisms. Jordan was, of course, also dealing with a contentious issue which still stirs debate – as was Defiance director Edward Zwick. Because of the deep politicisation of history and the stifling of historical debate during the communist era, it is only recently that Poles are beginning to examine their country’s plight during World War II. Citizens of eastern bloc countries, even East Germans, were told that they all had been part of a glorious anti-fascist struggle during the war. It is only since the collapse of the Berlin Wall that this has been openly questioned –-- along with the record of the Red Army at the time. While Zwick’s action film may be an oversimplification (and how can a three-year story squeezed into two-and-a-bit hours not be an oversimplification?), it is also part of a broader, open debate on history that former Warsaw Pact countries must pursue if they are to fully heal.

Media bill threatens Internet freedom in Belarus

Websites will be subject to further restrictions under the country’s new media law, passed by President Lukashenko on 5 August. The law stipulates that online content will now be subject to the same restrictions as the print press.

Belarus media faces further restriction

A new media bill has been approved by the lower house of parliament in Belarus, leaving just a few steps before the bill pass to President Lukashenko for approval. The bill would change registration procedures for the traditional media and extend them to online media as well, forcing all web pages to be registered. The […]

Independent weekly threatened

Gazeta Slonimskaya, an independent weekly journal in Belarus, has been threatened with eviction by state authorities.

Belarus and Ukraine

alt informationIn this issue, Index on Censorship magazine looks at efforts by Belarus and Ukraine to forge a post-Soviet identity through language and literature

20th Anniversary: Reign of terror

alt informationIn this issue, editor-in-chief of Sarajevo TV in Bosnia fled after an assassination attempt, she speaks on situations facing war-torn Bosnia journalists.