A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0205, updated 0609
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
Belarus has always been a zone of cultural
and political encounter and confrontation between West and East. For example,
it is located on one of the religious fault-lines of Europe, historically
pulled between Catholic Poland and Orthodox Russia. The substantial Jewish
community was killed during the Holocaust.
In August 1991, the Republic of Belarus declared its independence as one of the successor states of the former Soviet Union. More than a decade after independence, the question of whether or not to strengthen ties with Russia has still remained a subject of political debate. Under the leadership of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka Belarus has signed a friendship and cooperation pact with Russia (1995), an agreement on economic union (1996), an accord to merge the currency and tax systems by 2008 (1998), proposed a joint radio service...
A former state farm director, Alyaksandr
Lukashenka was elected president for a five-year term in 1994 by
a big majority, following his energetic performance as chairman of the
parliamentary anti-corruption committee. Following a referendum in 1996,
his term was extended by a further two years, widening his powers at the
expense of the parliament. He won a further term in presidential elections
in September 2001 which were criticised as undemocratic by Western observers.
Opposition activities are often dealt with harshly, but the authorities
show little concern for foreign criticism of human rights abuses. According
to the Council of Europe, there are serious concerns about human rights
and political freedoms, and the country remains isolated on the
international scene. Belarus has one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the world, and is the only
country in Europe which still carries out executions.
Just in time for the meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council in September and October 2006, Freedom House released its annual report of the world's most repressive regimes. (www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=409) Nine countries are listed as being serious violators of human rights, including Belarus. Freedom House says that "while these states scored slightly better than the 'worst of the worst,' they offer very limited scope for private discussion while severely suppressing opposition political activity, impeding independent organising, and censoring or punishing criticism of the state." Freedom House says it hopes the report will focus the U.N. Human Rights Council's attention on countries and territories that deserve investigation and condemnation for their widespread violations. The Council includes among its 47 members three countries profiled in "The Worst of the Worst": China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. In June 2006, the Council replaced the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which had been heavily criticised by human rights groups for allowing repressive regimes to gain influence over the monitoring body.
information on the radio system
The Belarusian National State Teleradio Company operates domestic radio and TV channels and an external radio service. Broadcasts are primarily in Belarusian, but because of widespread knowledge of Russian at times news reports might be in original Russian and after that the newsreader would continue in Belarusian.
The National State TV and Radio Company of the Republic of Belarus comprises:
- The First National TV Channel, (family oriented) TV Channel "LAD", (international channel) Belarus-TV"
- The First National Channel of the Belarusian Radio, Radio Channel "Culture",
- Radio Station "Belarus"
- Radio Station "Stolitsa"
- Radio Station "Radius FM"
- 5 regional TV and radio companies.
The official external service Radiostantsiya Belarus started broadcasting in 1962. In the framework of Soviet external broadcasting, stations of the republics had limited tasks only. At that time, the radio station was an integral part of the Soviet Union broadcasting system and the programmes also had to convey Moscow's point of view on world affairs. Until the 1980s programmes were almost exclusively in Belarusian for emigrants although some segments like interviews were also broadcast in the original language. In March 1985 Radio Minsk started regular broadcasts in German, followed by English and Russian in January 1998.
On 1 September 2006, the channels and radio stations of the Belarusian radio opened their new broadcasting season. Radio Station “Belarus” expanded its broadcasting hours by 2 hours a day. The total broadcasting time in the new season is now 7 hours of airtime on on 1170, 7105, 7390 and 7440 kHz (19:00 to 02:00 local time) plus 10 hours of English-language online-casting in a real-time format. The Belarusian language service is broadcast from 19:00 to 21:00, the German language service from 21:00 to 22:00 (1800 - 1900 UTC), the English language service from 22:00 to 24:00 (1900-2100), the Russian language service from 00:00 to 02:00. Also news editions in the Polish language will be available three times a week. Currently, www.tvr.by presents news, audio files of programs, and additional information in Belarusian, Russian and English. According to Ruslan Prokhorov, deputy director general of Foreign Broadcasting Division of the Belarusian Radio, the internet site of Radio Belarus will also get a German version.
Only a handful of international radio stations targets Belarusian listeners from outside the country. Belarus has been a traditional target area of US-American broadcaster Radyjo Svaboda (Radio Liberty). After the sign on of Radio Free Europe broadcasts to five Eastern European countries, a similar organization, was created for broadcasting to the USSR. The first Russian-language programme of Radio Liberation (later changed to Radio Liberty) aired on 1 March 1953 from Lampertheim, West Germany. Soon after, Radio Liberty the station began broadcasting in other languages of the USSR, including Belarusian in 1954. When US President Bill Clinton visited Belarus in spring 1994, he declared that Radio Liberty would shut down by the year 1995, because of diminishing influence and reduced demand. But this plan was immediately challenged by strong opposition.
In 1992 Radio Polonia started broadcasting in Belarusian. Prior to the fall of the Communist regimes, the Warsaw government had targetted Western listeners, now it was aiming at listeners in all countries neighbouring Poland.
On 7 November 2004 Radio Sweden introduced a Belarusian service: fortnightly on Sundays 1800-1830 UTC 5830 kHz and 2030-2100 UTC on medium wave 1179. After receiving lots of positive comments on the new service, Radio Sweden decided to air them weekly. So, starting from 5 December, Belarussian programmes went out every Sunday at the new time of 18.30 h on 5830 kHz. The programme is prepared and produced by Dmitry Plaks.
Beside these secular stations one might also mention religious broadcasters Radio Vatican and Trans World Radio (evangelical).
101.2 (1995-1996) and Radyjo Ratsyya (1999-2002)
In 1995, Radyjo 101.2 MHz went on the air in Minsk with funds of the Soros-Foundation. The station broadcast in Belorusian, while most other stations broadcast in Russian. When the Lukashenka administration began to tighten control of the media, Radyjo 101.2, was one of the first targets. On 31 August 1996, the State Frequency Inspection ordered the station to close down for causing interference to state broadcasting, although Radyjo 101.2 had been working on a frequency and with technical parameters assigned by the same authority. After the closure Radyjo 101.2 started broadcasting as Radyjo Ratsyya ("Radio Reason") in the internet.
In 1998, the efforts resulted in a joint project with the Union of Ethnic Belarusians in Poland, with the aim of establishing a Belarusian language radio station for listeners in both Poland and Belarus. Radyjo Ratsyya, with studios in Bialystok, Poland, and Minsk, Belarus, began broadcasting in November 1999 on local FM in Poland as well as international AM from Poland. The production department in Bialystok served the Belarusian community in the east of Poland, and a team in Minsk and Warsaw produced the short- and mediumwave broadcasts to Belarus. For a while the station also used medium wave in Lithuania, but changed to a Polish medium wave in Koszecin near Czestochowa in September 2001. In autumn 2002 the broadcasting company Racja Sp. z o.o. went bankrupt, but some people behind der station considered a move to Lithuania and broadcasts via Radio Baltic Waves.
Radio Baltic Waves (Baltijos Bangos) is a broadcaster based in Vilnius, Lithuania, originally proposed in March 1999. The station has been subject to complaints from the Belarusian government from its inception and was also controversial in Lithuanian domestic politics. While some leading forces supported the idea, others feared a worsening of international relations. The first application for a licence was turned down, but a second application was successful and Radio Baltic Waves went on the air on 1 January 2000 on a one-year trial basis. On 8 November 2000, the Radio and Television Commission decided to renew RBW's licence for another five years until 31 December 2005.
According to the website www.is.lt/ratekona/rbw/mission.htm the mission of Radio Baltic Waves was "to deliver uncensored news and information to Belarus; to encourage development of democracy and civic society in Belarus; to better inform Belarusian communities in Lithuania; to improve understanding between neighboring nations in Eastern Europe." The station has enjoyed support of foundations like the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (UK), National Endowment for Democracy (USA) and Open Society Institute (Hungary; Soros-Foundation),
Radio Baltic Waves wanted to unite all existing Belarusian radio broadcasters on a single channel enabling them to supplement each other on our channel rather than compete. This concept has been applied in several countries, most successfully by the English speaking satellite channels of UK-based World Radio Network which even have found terrestrial oulets in English speaking countries being used as night time filler by news oriented services. Likewise, RBW tried to combine Belarusian-language programmes from Lithuanian Radio, Radio Polonia, Prague-based Radio Liberty and Radyjo Ratsyya as well as own programmes. As compared to short wave, RBW offers the advantages of a broadcasting facility in the neighbourhood and a frequency in the medium wave band which is more enjoyed by the audience. Radio Polonia and Radio Liberty have been on the RBW schedule since Januar 2000 while others were on the air as finances permitted.
quarrel for 1386
On 20 March 2002, the Lithuanian Radio and TV Commission awarded Radio Baltic Waves International - with a 5-year broadcasting licence for 630 kHz (200 kW) daytime and 1386 kHz (1 MW) nighttime operations. The Lithuanian Telecommunications Regulatory Authority contacted the Russian authorities about a co-channel station at Bolshakovo radio center, Kaliningradskaya oblast (1386 kHz, 1200 kW), which is not officially registered with the International Telecommunications Union because the former USSR kept transmitter locations veiled.
On 10 September 2003 representatives of Telecom authorities from Russia and Lithuania signed a final protocoll about the future use of the disputed frequency. The Russian side promised to end transmissions from the Bolshakovo transmitting centre by 1 November 2007. Starting 1 January 2004, the transmission times from Bolshakovo were to be gradually reduced from 8h/daily in 2004 to 4h/d in 2005 and 2h/d after 1 January 2006. Lithuania is entitled to make full use of 1386 kHz in the interim period outside of the Bolshakovo transmission times. After 1 November 2007, the frequency will be excusively used by Lithuania. According to the Geneva Medium Wave Plan, Lithuania is authorized to use up to 1000 kW on 1386 kHz. The licensee in Lithuania for this frequency is Radio Baltic Waves International (RBWI), and RBWI is determined to use 1386 kHz for high power transmissions. Currently, Sitkunai is operated on 1386 kHz with 500 kW, but can be increased to 650 kW any time.
EU station for
RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported that participants in an international conference organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Warsaw on 6 November 2004 mentioned the establishment of a European radio station that could broadcast to Belarus as one of the EU's possible measures to influence the situation in that country. "The chance that such a radio station will be created is very great," European Parliament Deputy Chairman Janusz Onyszkiewicz said. He noted that the European Parliament is not going to cooperate with the Chamber of Representatives elected in October 2004 in what it considers to be democratically defective elections. "We will be looking for ways to co-operate directly with Belarussian society and support the formation of a civic society," Onyszkiewicz said. "For example, we can do that by setting up a new Belarussian lang European radio station, this idea enjoys a lot of support in the European Parliament." Hans-Georg Wieck, former head of the OSCE Office in Minsk, also backed the idea of European radio for Belarus. In addition, Wieck suggested that Europe should consider launching a new television channel that would reach viewers throughout Belarus or paying Russian television stations to air "regular opposition programmes."
investigating setting up radio service to Belarus
Dr Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood policy, has told the European Parliament that she is investigating the possibility of the Commission being involved in setting up a radio service for Belarus. In a speech addressing the political situation and the independence of the media in Belarus, she said: "The idea of supporting independent radio broadcasting to Belarus has been raised as a possible effective and useful response to the lack of alternative and independent information in Belarus. The Commission services have carefully studied the possibility for the Commission to contribute to such an endeavour. As things stand now, there is no straight forward funding solution for radio broadcasting under the rules and procedures that bind the Commission. But I assure you that I am doing the utmost to find a solution." (European Commission via Radio Netherlands Media Network 6.7.2005)
to support independent broadcasting in Belarus
On 24 August 2005 the European Commission published an official press release, confirming information released earlier by Deutsche Welle:
The European Commission has granted a €138.000 contract to Deutsche Welle Radio to broadcast via radio and Internet into Belarus. These programmes will be in an initial stage primarily in Russian, one of the state languages of Belarus, though content may also be provided in Belarusian in the future. With this measure, the Commission hopes to increase the awareness of the Belarusian population about democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, freedom of press and human rights. Broadcasting will take place over 12 months from 1 November 2005. The Commission is the first donor to carry out this type of activity in support of human rights and freedom of expression in Belarus.
Commissioner for External Relations & European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, said: "We are extremely worried about the lack of freedom of expression in Belarus. Over the past years independent media coverage in Belarus has met increasingly tight restrictions. This initiative will bring independent international radio to the Belarusian population. It will increase their awareness of the deteriorating situation of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in their country."
The activities to be carried out by the Deutsche Welle are: 15 minute daily broadcasts Monday to Friday, specifically dedicated to Belarus, with news and reports from inside Belarus (network of own correspondents), information about political, social, economic matters, daily life etc. Internet presentation, with the text of the broadcast and related audio files.
2006 two new stations for Belarus
In February 2006, two new stations started broadcasting in Belarusian
On 22 February 2006, Radyjo Racyja, based in the eastern Polish city of Bialystok, resumed transmission in Belarusian targeted at audiences across the border. Radio Racja was initially launched in 1999 and suspended its operations in 2002 due to lack of funding. The station is broadcasting daily 1700-1900 UTC on mediumwave 1080 kHz from a 350 kW transmitter near Katowice in the south of Poland, and on 105.5 MHz FM along the border with Belarus. Radio Racja is also broadcasting on 103.8 FM from Lithuania. For the time being it is airing a single-hour programme daily in the Belarusian language with repeats. The station is funded by the Polish government, but hopes to acquire other sponsors soon. According to Oleg Latyszonek, representative of the Belarusian Association in Poland who is also on the assembly of partners of Radio Racja, programmes will be made by journalists from Poland and Belarus - five people for the time being. Two journalists from Poland used to work for the old Radio Racja, while the Belarusian journalists have come from Minsk and Hrodna.
Towards the end of January, a consortium led by a German Media Consulta company won the tender for broadcasts to Belarus that would be financed by the European Union. The winning consortium includes European Radio for Belarus from Poland, Baltic Waves Radio from Lithuania, Russian TV company RTVi, independent journalists and representatives of Belarusian civil and non-governmental organizations. Beginning on 26 February, European Radio for Belarus (Belarusian: Eurapejskaje Radyjo dlia Belarusi) with studio in Warsaw, which already is available via www.belradio.fm is broadcast at 0600-0700 UT on Radio Baltic Waves in Vilnius on 612 kHz (100 kW).
Radio Racja Belarus in Summer 2008
15.30-17.28: 6145 (Sitkunai-100 kW, 40°) Radio Racja in Belarusian