Battle for the airwaves


Belsat TV has become news for e-media opendemocracy.net which has more than 200,000 unique visitors per month.

Journalist Annabelle Chapman draws readers’ attention to the location of the channel: “Why did the journalists at Belsat choose Warsaw? “This is where there’s work – it’s not a question of sentiment,” says Volha Shved, chief web-editor at Belsat TV. With both a TV station and a handful of Belarusian NGOs, she sees the city as offering a rare opportunity for journalists from Belarus to continue working in their profession abroad. But Aliaksei Dzikavitski, Director of Information Programming, disagrees. He could have gone anywhere in the world, he says, but chose Warsaw because it is historically and culturally close to Belarus – not to mention geographically. Also, he adds, “the Polish government has a strong position on Belarus, unlike most other EU countries, which only have rhetoric”. Belsat was backed by Poland’s Foreign Ministry from the start, and is funded by the Polish state”.

Young Belarusians have made Warsaw their home, built their careers and sent their children to school here. The journalist wonders whether they would return to Belarus if the authoritarian rule of Aliaksandr Lukashenka came to an end. “Many people say they would, but it gets harder, as your children are growing up in Poland,” Ms Chapman quotes Volha Shved.

“If the current Belarusian government fell,” says Mr Dzikavitski, “I would board the train that evening, and arrive in Minsk the next morning, ready to work for state television”. He believes that, when the time comes, state television will play a key role in shaping a new, democratic Belarus. And, fortunately, he heads a skilled team of television journalists in Warsaw, who he hopes would come with him, Annabelle Chapman stresses.

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