New EU broadcasting initiative for Belarus

The European Commission is announcing today which media consortium will undertake a €2 million project to increase access in Belarus to independent sources of news and information. The selected consortium, led by Media Consulta (Germany) includes implementing partners from Poland (European Radio for Belarus, Lithuania (Radio Baltic Wave), Belarus (journalists, civil society and NGOs), and Russia (RTVi), which will broadcast by satellite from Germany. It will be supported by a number of EU NGOs specialized in the media sector. The two-year project will cover radio and TV broadcasts, internet, support to the Belarusian written press and training of journalists. The radio and TV broadcasting programmes will start in February before the presidential elections in Belarus.

Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner commented: “The EU is committed to doing all it can to support democratisation and human rights in Belarus. Increasing the possibilities for Belarusians to obtain impartial information about their own country, and giving them a window on the outside world is crucial. The very broad-based consortium that we have selected has a rich variety of experience to offer. It will offer independent information, and, I hope, make a real difference in the Belarusian media landscape, where independent journalists are under increasing pressure”.

Independent journalists in Belarus have faced increasing difficulties in recent years. The state-owned electronic and print media are under tight administrative control. The directors of TV and radio stations and the editors-in-chief of state-run newspapers are appointed by the president. As a result the access of the Belarusian population to independent news sources has been severely limited.

The objective of the €2 million project announced today is to provide independent, reliable and balanced information, including news and analysis on Belarus itself, and material to increase understanding of the EU and its 25 Member States.

Broadcasting will be half and half in Belarusian and Russian language. The first programmes will go out before the elections scheduled on 19th March. There will be special live programmes on both radio and TV just before and just after the elections.

This new initiative follows on from a smaller (€138,000) broadcasting project already underway, implemented by Deutsche Welle.

Since the flawed elections in Belarus in 2004, the EU has taken steps to increase support for NGOs and civil society in the country. In total, €8.7 million was earmarked in 2005 for support to democracy and human rights.
For more information on EU/Belarus relations please see: