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Who needs Belsat TV? Lately the question has been asked many times – not only due to the uncertain future of the TV station, but also amid the growing threat to the future of independent Belarus, Uladzimir Skrabutan, editor of the newspaper Free Hlybokaye, believes.
In his opinion, Belsat makes a stand against the information war waged by the so-called Russian World.
“Belsat performs the tasks which the Belarusian authorities are supposed to carry out, but they fail. Therefore, the niche was occupied by Belsat TV, and its work is very important, because many issues are not covered by state-run media,” Skrabutan says.
Meanwhile, Henadz Davydzka, head of the state-controlled Belarusian TV and Radio company, states that our channel is not efficient.
“The channel was tailored to propaganda, and too biased. I believe that mass media’s plunge into politics should be low-dose, but Belsat has fully stuck in it. Moreover, a media outlet which broadcasts to the country from the territory of a foreign state with the task of discrediting the country’s leadership, mocking at the existing system, distorting history cannot be objective.”
However, why do the authorities pay so much attention to Belsat if it is so ‘inefficient’ and ‘unpopular’? The answer to the question is in stories of our viewers who continue to convey sincere thanks for our work and help.
“All Belarusian NGOs know that if there is some problem, one should always reach out to Belsat, not to state-run media! Asking them for help is no dice. We are very grateful for reporting our problems, because Belsat TV videos really boost spirits of people, including activists, and inspires them to be more proactive,” activist Viktar Yanchurevich says.
If city people have more chances to be given a helping hand, independent media is often the last resort for residents of most regions. For instance, in 2016 local authorities wanted to close the only public bathhouse in the village of Myaretskiya (Hlybokaye district) due to its alleged unprofitability. However, after the story was televised by Belsat TV, they changed their mind. The bathhouse still works.
“I always watch Belsat! Earlier, I did not know that such channel existed. But when we were fighting to save our bath, I came to the neighbors and got to know about it. Since then I have been watching it. And I think that it should live! May good success attend you!” Cheslau Vaytetski, a resident of the village, says.
“I want to believe Belsat will continue its being, and we will watch it, we will have ups and downs together with Belsat , because it is a people’s channel program, one should not close it, because it is the only thing that is left for the people!” Barys Zhuk says.
In late December, a special statement in support of Belsat was made by our colleagues – not employees of state-run TV, but the Belarusian Association of Journalists. And the collection of signatures for saving the channel is still in progress on web. Our viewers are also calling for solidarity with Belsat, for example, Volha Zhyhar from Hrodna. The woman founded the association of mothers whose children were wrongfully sentenced for the distribution and use of drugs – our channel also covered the problem.
“Dear indifferent people! Please sign the petition and support the channel. Let Belsat live!”
All these kind words and good wishes are worth their weight in gold.
In mid-December, Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy told portal Wpolityce.pl with reference to unofficial information that the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs intended to reduce reduce financing the television channel Belsat TV by 2/3 and stop its broadcast in the Belarusian language. On a practical level, such changes would mean the closure of Belsat, the only independent Belarusian-language TV channel, which has become a permanent support of public opinion and national identity of Belarusians.
On December 18, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Wazczykowski voiced the ministry’s plans of Belsat TV transition to a web mode and its journalists’ transfer to TVP Polonia.