Monday, February 27, 2006

EU Funds Broadcasting to Belarus

On Friday, RFE/RL reports that the European Union will be funding independent broadcasting to Belarus in the amount of 2 million Euro over at two year period. Radio transmissions begin on February 26 and will mainly emanate from Poland and Lithuania. Despite the source of funding, radio stations are to be independent from the EU. This is less than a month before the 19 March presidential elections in Belarus, and Lukashenka's regime will be sure to see it as an EU provocation.

Targeting a youthful audience, European Radio for Belarus and Radio Baltic Wave are to give Belarusians alternative access to information in the same manner that RFE/RL did during the Cold War. Programmes will be in both Belarusian and Russian, and be broadcast on the FM band and via the Internet.

Already in January, EU Commission spokeswoman, Emma Udwin, declared that "There will be specific TV and radio programs dedicated to the elections broadcast ahead of the election date," EU Business reports.

The new radio stations are, however, not the only independent foreign media targeting Belarus. For long, Radio Racja had regular transmissions to Belarus, but in the end had to stop sending due to lack of funding. By this project, however, Radio Racyja seems to have been adopted by the new European Radio for Belarus. Also, Deutsche Welle, has been targeting programmes at a Belarusian audience.

Rumour also has it that president Lukashenka, during a recent visit to China, took great interest in Chinese authorities' methods to control the Internet by banning and screening information. Although this may be too late for the upcoming 19 March presidential elections in Belarus, we will be sure to hear more about such measures by Lukashenka during his third term in office.

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