The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 85th annual Congress in Manila, Philippines, 1 to 5 October 2019, is concerned at the continuous stigmatisation of the Belarusian language in Belarus, where the authorities have been seeking to assert the dominance of the Russian language for nearly three decades.
PEN International notes that Belarusian remains frowned upon at state level. Nearly every law is published in Russian only. Access to Belarusian in education remains limited, with only 13% of pupils reportedly studying in Belarusian and no university using it as the main language of instruction.
Eighty five per cent of books published in Belarus each year are published in Russian.
“Russian still dominates the media space in Belarus, which remains under tight government control. Belsat TV, the first and only independent channel in Belarus, currently plays a key role in popularising Belarusian and offering alternative content,” notes the resolution.
Yet Belsat TV is unable to place advertisements promoting videos in Belarusian on its YouTube channels, as Google Ads does not support the Belarusian language. This greatly affects Belsat TV’s attempts to expand its audience and disseminate independent and reliable information in the Belarusian language.
The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International calls on Belarus to: Comply with Article 17 of the Constitution of Belarus, which enshrines Belarusian as an official language;
The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International further calls on Google and other online platforms to recognize Belarusian as a language and thereby ensure that Belarusians can express themselves and communicate freely with members of their own communities and others in the Belarusian language.