Belarus opposition asks Lithuania to extend finanical support for media, Internet

  • 2005-11-30
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - Alexander Milinkevich, the joint opposition candidate for next year's presidential election in Belarus, told an audience last week in Lithuania that the Baltic state and the international community could help Belarus by supporting the independent media.
He said that any help could be extended to people persecuted by the authorities and boosting financial aid for the Internet.

"There are two problems hindering the development of democracy in Belarus: fear, which is almost the same as in Stalin's era, and the absence of independent information," Milinkevich told journalists after meeting with President Valdas Adamkus on Nov. 25.

Calling the state media "an instrument of propaganda," he said the number of independent newspapers in Belarus was rapidly decreasing as authorities close them down. He said there had been 60 independent newspapers four years ago, while next year there would be only four.

"Therefore, the most important support is information. Newspapers need support, they need paper, ink," Milinkevich said.

He also noted the importance of the Internet, the tariffs of which were very high in Belarus. "There is a boom in Internet use. People are looking for information on the Internet, and so programs on Internet provision for public organizations are very important," he said.

"We would like Lithuania and other countries to allocate funds to give people banished from the country for political activity a possibility to continue studies in neighbor countries," the presidential candidate said.

Speaking of Lukashenko, he added, "People are tired of him, he has been deceiving [them] for a very long time, and populism does not last forever."

Led by Lukashenko, Belarus is constantly criticized by international human rights organizations and foreign states' governments for suppression of freedom of speech and the opposition.

Milinkevich did not rule out the possibility of public protests after the elections. "We will demand that the regime hold transparent and lawful elections. And if it fails to do this, we will invite people to the streets. Dictatorial regimes usually do not step down without resistance in the streets," he said.

The European Humanities University, which was banished from Minsk, was reopened in Vilnius last summer. It was the only non-state educational establishment in Belarus that had a state-recognized university status. Still, it was forced to terminate its activity due to obstacles put on it by the authorities.