Media of Belarus
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The media of Belarus refers to mass media outlets based in the Republic of Belarus. Television, magazines, and newspapers are operated by both state-owned and for-profit corporations, and depend on advertising, subscriptions, and other sales-related revenues. The Constitution of Belarus guarantees freedom of speech, but this is voided in practice by repressive and restrictive laws. Arbitrary detention, arrests and harassment of journalists are the norm in Belarus. Anti-extremism legislation targets independent journalism, including materials deemed contrary to the honor of the President of Belarus.
- 1 Legislative framework
- 2 Media outlets
- 3 Media organisations
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The legal sources on the media sphere in Belarus include the Constitution of Belarus, Закон Республики Беларусь "О средствах массовой информации" (the Law of Belarus about Media), international obligations and treaties, and by-law regulations.
The Law of Belarus about the media entered into force in February 2009. It requires the re-registration of mass media into a state register by February 2010. Some articles of the law are deemed as considerably restricting the country's citizens' constitutional rights regarding freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Despite constitutional protections, criticizing the president or the government is a criminal offense in Belarus. Libel is punished with prison sentences or harsh fines. No guarantees exist for public access to governmental records. Free trial is not guaranteed either. The politicized court system and obscure regulations are systematically used to harass independent media outlets in Belarus. As a non-member of the Council of Europe, Belarus is not bound to respect the European Convention on Human Rights.
More than 20 journalists were questioned, warned or fined in 2014 for "illegal production and distribution of media products".
Status and self-regulation of journalists
Belarus journalists have adopted two ethical codes, both in 1995: "Кодекс профессиональной этики журналиста" (The Code of Professional Etiquette of the Journalist of the Belarus Union of Journalists) and "Кодекс журналистской этики" (The Code of Journalistic Ethics of the Belarus Association of the Journalists).
The Ministry of Information of Belarus was established in 2001 and serves as Belarus' media regulator. Licensing and registration procedures are opaque and politicized. Since 2009, all media outlets, including websites, need to register or face blockage. Independent publications have been forced to use foreign-based internet domains. Outlets that "threaten the interests of the state" can also be denied accreditation and shut down.
In February 2009, the government established a Public Coordination Council in Sphere of the Mass Information, aimed at: co-ordination of interaction of state management, public associations and other organisations carrying out activities in the sphere of mass information; maintenance of correct application of the law on mass media and other legislation in sphere of mass information; consideration of the questions as issues from applications to the law on mass media.
Censorship and media freedom
Freedom of the press in Belarus remains extremely restricted. State-owned media are subordinated to the president and harassment and censorship of independent media are routine. The government subjects both independent and foreign media to systematic political intimidation, especially for reporting on the deteriorating economy and human rights abuses. Journalists are harassed and detained for reporting on unauthorized demonstrations or working with unregistered media outlets. Journalists have been killed in suspicious circumstances. Most local independent outlets regularly practice self-censorship.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Belarus 154th out of 178 countries in its 2010 Press Freedom Index. In the 2011 Freedom House Freedom of the Press report, Belarus scored 92 on a scale from 10 (most free) to 99 (least free), because the Lukashenko regime systematically curtails press freedom. This score placed Belarus 9th from the bottom of the 196 countries included in the report and earned the country a "Not Free" status.
Belarus hosts both state-owned and privately owned media. In 2009 there were in total 1,314 media outlets in the country, of which 414 state-owned and around 900 privately owned.
The state has a monopoly over terrestrial broadcasting infrastructure, and does not allow cable companies to carry channels without prior approval. State-owned postal and kiosk distribution systems, as well as state-owned print facilities and state advertising contracts are often off-limits for independent media. The internet infrastructure is controlled by Beltelecom. State media are supported through tax cuts and direct subsidies. Most state-dominated mainstream media in Belarus glorify President Lukashenko and vilify the opposition. Self-censorship is pervasive among private outlets. The Belarus government maintains a "virtual monopoly" over domestic broadcast media. Foreign ownership of media is restricted to maximum 20% (30% until December 2014). Independent broadcasters transmitting from neighboring countries include Belsat TV, Radio Racyia and European Radio for Belarus.
Bloggers and online journalism used to be almost free, although limited to a very narrow audience, but the government has started censoring the web too, since internet penetration has started growing.
- Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) is the largest news agency of Belarus, with the status of official state news agency for nearly 90 years. It remains the most authoritative source of information on authorities' activities.
- BelaPAN, private news agency founded in 1991
- Interfax-West: part of the international group Interfax Information Services, it has operated in Belarus since 1994, catering mostly to Belarus national and local media. It also started the web portal Interfax.by and the specialized agricultural agency Agrobel.by
- Ecopress ("ЭКОПРЕСС")
- Minsk-News ("Минск-Новости")
- News-release ("Ньюс-Релиз")
- PRIME-TASS ("ПРАЙМ-ТАСС")
- Union-info ("Союз-инфо")
- Vladimir Grevtsov's Agency ("Агентство Владимира Гревцова")
The biggest number of print media in Belarus are in Russian language (572 titles vs. 71 in Belarusian language, in 2009). The total circulation of national newspapers was 650,000, and 880,000 copies for the state regional press. Eight newspapers were deprived of license between 1997 and 2009.
Among the Belarus-language newspapers, the main and state-controlled one is Zviazda (Звязда, 40,000 copies). Other newspapers include Novy Chas (Новы Час, 7,000 copies), Nasha Slova (Наша Слова, 7,000 copies, newspaper about culture and history, published by the Francishak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society), Naša Niva (Наша Ніва; 6,000 copies, the oldest Belarusian weekly newspaper founded in 1906 and revived in 1991, pro-opposition), and Holas Radzimy (Голас радзiмы, 2,000 copies), government-controlled newspaper for the Belarusian diaspora. Regional dailies include the online Vitsebsk newspaper Narodnya Naviny Vitsebska (Народныя навіны Віцебска) as well as Pahonia (Пагоня), a pro-opposition newspaper formerly published in Hrodna, only published online since being closed down by the government in 2001.
Among the Russian-language newspapers, the largest national newspaper is Sovetskaya Belorussia (Советская Белоруссия; over 500,000 copies), official newspaper of the Administration of the President of Belarus. Other dailies include Respublika (Рэспубліка; 119,500 copies), official newspaper of the Government of Belarus; Vo Slavu Rodiny (Во славу Родины; 32,300 copies), official newspaper of the Belarusian Ministry of Defense; Narodnaya Gazeta (Народная Газета, 25,042 copies), official newspaper of the Parliament of Belarus; BelGazeta (БелГазета, 21,200 copies), independent national newspaper on business and politics; Belorusy i rynok (Белорусы и Рынок, 12,000 copies) , weekly independent business newspaper. Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta (БДГ; BDG), formerly the largest independent newspaper on politics and business in 1990's (with about 70,000 copies), was closed down by officials in 2006.
Bilingual Russian/Belorusian newspapers include Narodnaja Volia (Народная воля, 15,000 copies), the largest national pro-opposition newspaper on politics; Hazeta Slonimskaya (Газета Слонімская; Газета Слонимская; 7,000 to 8,000 copies), an independent local newspaper published in Slonim; Intex-Press (Интекс-пресс, 17,300 copies) , an independent local newspaper published in Baranavichy; Zhodzinskiya Naviny (Жодзінскія Навіны; Zhodino News)  – published in Zhodzina; Vecherniy Brest (Вечерний Брест; Evening Brest)  – published in Brest
In 2015, official sources had registered a total of 713 newspapers and 808 magazines
Publishing houses in Belarus include the biggest state publishing houses "Belarus", Belarusian Petrus Brouka Encyclopedia, publishing house "Belarusian Science", Vysheysha shkola (specialized in academic books), Mastatskaya Litaratura, Narodnaya Asveta, the unitary company Belkartografia, Minsk color printing factory, the publishing house "Aversev", and the Belsoyuzpechat association companies.
Four-Quarters is a publishing house founded in 1992 in Minsk, Belarus. It publishes books on arts, history and geography.
As of February 2009, there were 158 radio stations in Belarus, of which 137 state-owned and 21 private ones. 23 radio stations broadcast on FM, including the historic channels "Беларусь" (Belarus), "Рокс" (Roks), "Радио Мир" (Radio the World), "Альфа радио" (Alpha radio), Би-Эй (B-A), which have been on air since the early 1990s.
State-owned broadcaster Belteleradio broadcasts the radio's First Channel, "Culture", Radius FM, Radio Stolitsa and Radio Station "Belarus" Local stations include Radio Brest, Radio Vitebsk, Gomel FM, Radio Grodno, and Radio Mogilev
Other state radio stations include Alpha Radio (Publisher house "Soviet Belarus"), Radio Minsk (Government of Minsk), MV Radio (Government of Minsk region), Radio Unistar (Belarus State University and MediaInvest Gmbh), Novoe Radio (Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus), Pilot FM (Belarusian Republican Youth Union), Radio ONT (Ministry of Information Belarus 51%; Belarusbank 29%; "Factory of information technology" 20%) and Radio MIR - Belarus (MIR State Broadcasting)
Quasi-private radio stations include Radio Europa Plus Belarus, Radio Humor FM - Belarus (LLC Vashe Televidenie), Dushevnoe radio, Narodnoe radio, the "BA – International" joint venture with Radio BA - International and Radio Melodii Veka, and the "Russian Radio" Holding with Russian Radio Belarus and Radio ROKS Belarus
Regional stations include MFM (Hrodna – 105.0 FM), Baranovichi FM (Baranovichi – 100.0 FM), Homiel plus (Homiel – 101.3 FM), Radio 107,4 FM (Homiel – 107.4 FM), Retro FM (Vitebsk – 104.6 FM, Polatsk – 104.7 FM), Radio Skif (Vorsha – 99.9 FM), Hit-radio (Minsk – 100.4 FM), Svoyo radio (Pinsk – 106.1 FM), Radio Naftan (Polatsk – 98.1 FM), and Nelly – info (Mozyr – 102.7 FM)
Independent radio stations include Radio Svaboda, European Radio for Belarus (FM and internet), Radio Racyja (FM and internet) and several web-radios including Radio Aplus  Netradio  and several channels of Radio ROKS.
The European Radio for Belarus (Eŭrapéjskaje Rádyjo dla Biełarúsi) is an international radio station based in Warsaw that has provided independent news, information, and entertainment to the citizens of Belarus since February 2006. ERB operates on FM, lower FM, Internet, and Satellite, to promote European democratic values and assist the development of a new generation of journalists. Members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), as well as journalists at the former Radio 101.2, actively participated in the creation of the this radio station.
Television remains the main soure of information for Belarus citizens. The main TV channels are under control of the state. In 2009 there were 71 TV channels broadcasting in Belarus, of which 30 state-owned and 41 private channels. The main TV broadcasting companies and channels include:
- The National State Television and Radio Company of the Republic of Belarus (Belteleradio, BTRC) is the state-owned television and the largest media group in Belarus. Belteleradio operates six television channels, of which five are distributed nationally and one is distributed internationally. It broadcasts Belarus 1 (News, current affairs, and general interest programs), Belarus 2 (Entertainment and sports programs), Belarus 3 (Cultural programs), Belarus 4 (Regional news, entertainment and cultural programs, and there are broadcasts separately for the Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, Minsk and Mogilev regions), Belarus 5 (Sport channel), Belarus 24 (International channel catering to viewers outside of Belarus) as well as NTV Belarus, Belarus version of NTV Russia, whose programs consist of content from NTV Russia and other Russian channels Belteleradio has a staff of around 1,000 employees.
- Obshchenatsional'noe Televidenie (All-National Television, ОНТ/ONT) is Belarus' second national TV station, replacing Channel One Russia since 2002 after a decree of the President of Belarus, though still broadcasting most of the channel's contents in Russian and Belarusian languages. It is owned by the Ministry of Information of Belarus (51%), Belarusbank (29%) and "Factory of information technology" (20%).
- Belsat TV (Белсат TV) is an independent channel owned by Telewizja Polska, on air since December 2007.
- STV (Сталічнае тэлебачаньне) and Belarus RTR (a localized version of Russia's RTR Planeta) are two channels owned by the Minsk City Government, launched in 2001 and 2008 respectively.
- MIR, owned by MIR State Broadcasting, broadcasts since 2003.
- Skif, owned by Telecom-Garant, is a regional television network on air since 1992.
- BelMuzTV (a localized version of Russia's Muz TV) and TNT-International (a localized version of TNT (Russia) and TNT-Comedy) are two channels owned by BelMuzTV Redaction, on air since 2006 and 2015 respectively.
- VTV, owned by Dobrovidenie, is an entertainment channel on air since 2002.
- 8 Kanal (8 канал) is an independent general entertainment channel, airing since 1996/2002.
- Minsk TV (Мiнск TV), owned by Cosmos TV, is a documentary channel launched in 2015.
The analog signal of TV channels from nearby Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia is received in Belarus. Moreover, foreign TV programmes from Russia, Poland, Ukraine and other Western European countries are broadcast by almost all cable TV operators.
Satellite TV channels include Belarus TV, a 24/7 state non-commercial satellite TV channel in the Belarus and Russian languages registered by Belteleradio in February 2005, as well as "The first musical channel", launched in 2002 and soon the first Belarus interactive satellite TV channel, accessible to viewers in more than 80 countries.
In Soviet times, Belarusfilmstudio was dubbed Partizanfilm, due to the large output of films portraying the Soviet partisan's struggle against Nazi occupation. The studio was, however, also renowned for its children's films. To date, the studio has made 131 animation films., but most of the output was in Russian rather than Belarus.
Belarusfilm has produced national films since 1997, with around 10 feature films and 4 animation films per year. It is also co-organizer of the Listapad film festival held yearly in Minsk, Belarus in November.
Landline phones have 3.7 million subscribers, of which 0.8 million in the countryside. Mobile phones have 8.7 million subscribers. Three operators offer GSM services ("МТС", "Velcom",«Life:)») and one offers CDMA, («Diallog»).
In 2009. 31% of the Minsk population had access to internet, 12% in other major cities. 180 ISP provided access to internet to 3.1 million users (broadband only for 470,000). The monopoly over internet access is held by the State Enterprise Beltelecom.
Media professionals in Belarus can affiliate to two trade unions:
- The public organisation «Белорусский союз журналистов» (Belarus Union of Journalists, BUJ), established in 1958 as the professional and independent organisation of Belarusian mass media workers.
- The public organisation Belarusian Association of Journalists, established in 1995 (registered in 1999) as an alternative to the existing journalist's trade union. It is a voluntary, nongovernmental, non-party association of citizens engaged in professional journalistic activity or promote its development. BAJ has existed since autumn of 1995 (in 1999 it filed for re-registration as required by the state). It was created as an alternative to the existing journalist's trade union to tackle the new issues generated by new media.
The "Union of Publishers and Distributors of Press" (SIRP) was created in December 2006 as a non-commercial organisation of media publishers and distributors.
Non-governmental associations active in the media sector include the Belarus Association of Nongovernmental TV and the Belarus Association of Sports Press.
- Elena Kononova, Belarus, EJC Media Landscapes, circa 2010
- Freedom House, 2015 Belarus freedom of the press report
- "The death of Oleg Bebenin", Michael Harris, Index on Censorship, 4 September 2010
- "Country report: Belarus", Freedom of the Press 2011, Freedom House, 21 April 2011
- Press Freedom Index 2010 Archived 24 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine., Reporters Without Borders, 20 October 2010
- "Mass media in Belarus", Belarus.by, the Official Website of the Republic of Belarun, January 2015
- "Freemogilev Resources and Information". Freemogilev. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- "Палата представителей Национального собрания Республики Беларусь:". Government. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
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- Газета "Народная Воля" появится в киосках на следующей неделе Беларускія навіны (in Russian). Newsby. 19 December 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- "Слонимская газета: новости, происшествия, расписание, реклама, частные объявления города Слоним – Рекламодателям". GS. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- "Newspaper Resources and Information.". Intex-Press. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
- Belarusian Publishing Houses Participated in the Baltic Book Fair
- "TV Channels >> Television >> Belteleradiocompany". Belteleradiocompany. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
- "Тэлеканалы >> Тэлебачанне >> Белтэлерадыекампанiя" (in Belarusian). Belteleradiocompany. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
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- Chronological list of Belarusfilm animated films at animator.ru