Top 10 of Belarus Civil Society in 2019

Top 10 of Belarus Civil Society in 2019

For the eighth consecutive year Pact recognizes some of the most prominent events, developments and people in Belarus civil society in 2019. We are happy to share with you our subjective vision of top 10 events, organizations and activists that found new tools to deliver their messages, expanded civic space or gave a stronger voice to vulnerable groups.

Belarusian and Russian versions of 2019 and the Top 10 of the previous years – 201220132014201520162017 and 2018  – are available.

Happy holidays!

Pact Belarus team

Watchdog of the Year: Press Club Belarus

Since February 2019, Press Club Belarus has launched a large Media IQ campaign that monitors 19 Belarusian outlets to observe journalism standards and detect signs of misinformation, propaganda and manipulative techniques. Monthly campaign reports have become a reliable tool that helps Belarusian media to evaluate and improve their work, as well as the public learns to understand what unbiased information should be.

Research Topic of the Year: Kremlin’s Disinformation and Belarus-Russia “Deeper Integration”

Amid a growing wave of Kremlin’s pressure on Belarus, 2019 year was full of persistent rumors that Belarus could become part of a single state controlled by Russia. Independent analysts tried to calm the panic and suggested that authoritarian regimes of the two countries are incapable of sharing power; that forced integration was an unlikely option, and that long-term trends show that Belarus is gradually distancing itself from Russia. In 2019, CSOs and think tanks implemented a series of studies that revealed strengthening of the Russian information influence in Belarus. Research by the iSANS network, BAJ and Media IQ campaign all reveled growing “Russian World” information and messages presence in online and through state TV.

Belarusian National Hero of the Year: Kastus Kalinouski

In November 2019, hundreds of Belarusians came to Vilnius, Lithuania, to attend the solemn ceremony of farewell to the national Belarusian hero Kastus Kalinouski and other rebels of 1863-1864 uprising. Two years ago, their remains were accidentally discovered in nameless graves on Mount Gediminas. Belarusian civic activists also achieved that the monument contained inscriptions in Belarusian.

Civic Gig of the Year: Massive Festivals and Forums

The number and visibility of mass public events organized by Belarusian CSOs increases, and we chose to acknowledge that in a separate nomination. We have no room to list all such events, but some of the brightest examples include: First Media Literacy Solutions Forum (1), 2nd Minsk Dialogue Forum (1), 9th Global Entrepreneurship Week, GEW (1), 7th Kastryčnicki Economic Forum, KEF (1), First Youth Internet Governance Forum (1), For Decent Longevity Forum (1), 3rd EdCamp Non-Conference (1), Kilometer of Civic Activism Festival (1), First Zero Waste Market (1), International Festival SPRAVA (1), and more.

Digital Influencers of the Year: Critical Bloggers

Bloggers are gaining popularity along with traditional media, and sometimes surpass them in terms of the number of subscribers. Belarusian bloggers raise sensitive social topics, cover protests and publish leaks for which they receive pressure from the authorities. Thus, the film about the history of Belarusian authoritarian regime of blogger NEXTA (180K subscribers)  recorded over 2 million views and brought hundreds of young Belarusians to the Minsk Freedom Square. Most recently, a Telegram channels community of 60 Belarusian bloggers posted a joint statement on their channels that Belarus’s independence is not a bargain chip between Minsk and Moscow.

Crowdfunding of the Year: Molamola Platform

The crowdfunding platform that appeared in 2019, has made local fundraising even more affordable. The new mechanism allows collecting money for individuals for various purposes directly on her/his bankcard: from gifts to covering fines for political activity. At present, the platform hosts over 500 fundraising campaigns. MolaMola is a service of the crowdfunding platform that for five years of its activity raised over $850K.

New Approach of the Year: Gender Actions

The 2019 year was remembered for a number of unusual viral actions carried out by gender CSOs, who found ways of communicating gender-related issues in a creative way and under new angles. In March, the Kupala National Theater hosted an art-talk to discuss how a dress code becomes a barrier in the profession. Photo exhibition Her Job in Minsk told personal stories of Belarusian women who found themselves in “non-female” professions. On Human Rights Day, March Baby! initiative organized an art-installation and displayed dozens of pairs of orange shoes in the center of Minsk; each pair represented a victim of domestic violence who died as a result of it.

New Civic Space of the Year: Territory of Rights

New joint initiative by the Barys Zozkau Belarusian Human Rights House and Viasna human rights center resulted in the opening in Minsk of the Territory of Rights. The Territory has already offered free space to CSOs to organize over 170 events attended by more than 2,700 people.

Regulatory “Improvement” of the Year: Obligatory Payments for Mass Actions

In early 2019, the Council of Ministers adopted the regulation that imposed unbearable costs necessary to pay for the services of state services like police, ambulance, and public utilities during the planned mass actions. Actually, the law halted the holding of authorized mass actions in Belarus: Chernobyl rally was canceled for the first time in 30 years; independent trade unions abandoned the street actions on Labor Day. It turns out that Belarusian authorities beat civic activism with the ruble.

And Now For Something Completely Different Same of the Year: Not a Single Independent Candidate in the Parliament

Despite many – albeit modest – hopes, the November 17th parliamentary elections resulted in no opposition candidates receiving seats in the Parliament.

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