“With Europe’s eyes fixed on the Middle East and red with anger over the region’s lack of democracy, the media in the EU member states seem to forget that we have had a dictatorship in our very neighbourhood for the past 16 years,” explains JEF-Europe President Philippe Adriaenssens.
During and after the last election in December 2010, which was not recognised as transparent and fair by the OSCE, the Belarusian regime systematically threatened the population, denied access of the opposition to the state-controlled media and arrested a number of activists. Some of them are now being sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, while their attorneys have been disbarred.
“We find this lack of concern in Europe shameful. While JEF-Europe absolutely supports the calls for democracy in the Arab countries, we also believe European media should not overlook Belarus when reporting on these uprisings, in order to show that totalitarian oppression is not something endemic to those countries”, adds Adriaenssens.
JEF-Europe welcomes the renewed travel restrictions and freezing of assets of Lukashenko and other top Belarusian officials, but urges the European Union and its Member States to put more pressure on the current Belarusian government to respect human rights and basic freedoms of its people, support all democratic forces in Belarus which represent a clear political alternative to dictatorship, offer support for the remaining part of the Belarusian civil society and provide the Citizens of Belarus with free and independent media, including broadcasts from abroad.
“The EU should increase the number of scholarships for Belarusian students and provide young people participating in youth exchanges with free and easily obtainable visas in order to stimulate cooperation between the NGO sectors in Europe and Belarus” , says JEF-Europe’s President.
Since 2006 JEF-Europe has been raising awareness of the dictatorship in Belarus with its yearly ’Free Belarus Action’, where activists in more than 100 cities all over the world spend a night gagging statues in solidarity with the Belarusian Citizens, whose freedom of speech is oppressed by the regime.
“We will not tolerate any dictatorship in the EU’s backyard and will therefore keep actively taking part in supporting our young friends in Belarus with our pan-European actions and articles on thenewfederalist.eu. We aim to motivate the democratic forces in Belarus to persist in their plight for a European, open and free Belarus, the EU to take a stronger stance to assist this struggle, and Lukashenko to realise he will eventually have to follow in Mubarak’s footsteps”, concludes Adriaenssens.