|As the editor of the popular Minsk business daily Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta (BDG), Svetlana Kalinkina challenged the neo-Soviet policies of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko by publishing information the government did not want the public to have. The criticism stung because BDG is known for accuracy, professionalism, and nonpartisanship.
Authorities retaliated against BDG with legal and bureaucratic harassment, filing lawsuits, seizing print runs, detaining journalists, and conducting politically motivated tax inspections. In early 2004, the post office and state-run press refused to distribute the paper. With the Information Ministry harassing any printer that worked with BDG, it was forced to print in neighboring Russia. By September 2004, BDG, while appearing online, had all but disappeared from newsstands.
Frustrated and realizing that independent journalism had a limited future with Lukashenko in power, Kalinkina took a leave of absence to work to defeat an October referendum to allow Lukashenko to seek unlimited terms of office. The day the referendum won, in voting widely regarded as fraudulent, thugs beat independent TV reporter (and former CPJ awardee) Pavel Sheremet in Minsk. Three days later, Kalinkina's former BDG colleague Veronika Cherkasova was stabbed to death in her apartment, a murder that has yet to be solved.
Despite the limitations of independent journalism in Belarus, Kalinkina will begin work later this year as editor of the daily Narodnaya Volya (The People's Will). "The main problem for Belarusian journalism is that it has become a hostage to the overall situation in Belarus, including the authorities and the weak opposition," Kalinkina says. "And because of the arrogance of existing power, the media are caught in the middle and are forced to take sides."
"Belarusian journalist to receive Zeit Foundation awards"
"Outcry at Newspaper Closure," Institute for War & Peace Reporting
"Independent Media Perseveres in Belarus," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
"Heroes of Press Freedom," Washington Post, November 23, 2004
Remarks by Svetlana Kalinkina, International Press Freedom Award winner