Baltic Waves to flood Belarus

  • 2006-02-01
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - Baltic Waves Radio, which has been broadcasting to Belarus for six years, announced it would participate in the European Commission's international consortium to spread free word to a Belarus headed by hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy, announced on Jan. 26 that 2 million euros of funding for independent news broadcasts would be granted to a consortium headed by Germany's Media Consult.

The winning consortium also 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.

"This is a nice example of cooperation, which will bring together media representatives from several countries," Baltic Waves Radio head Rimantas Pleikys told the Baltic News Service.

In his words, BWR, which is based near Belarus, would rebroadcast programs prepared by the consortium.

Since January 2000, BWR has been broadcasting original programs to Belarus and re-broadcasting Radio Free Europe's Belarusian-language program.

BWR broadcasts have infuriated Minsk on several occasions.

The EC-funded project will run for two years, with Belarusian- and Russian-language broadcast scheduled from February. The European Commission pledges to keep away from the consortium's editing policy.

Belarus is planning to hold presidential elections in March, where dictator Lukashenko will seek his third consecutive term in office - a right he gained in a constitutional referendum that the international community dismissed as a sham.

Since his accession to power in 1994, Lukashenko has been successfully curbing the press and the opposition, forcing many journalists and civil activists to emigrate. Several opposition figures and journalists have been reported as missing in Belarus.