Free Word contest: EFJ awarded prizes to Belarusian journalists
To mark International Day of Solidarity with Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) awarded the Free Word contest for independent journalists of Belarus. The awards ceremony took place on 8 September 2023 in Vilnius, Lithuania, with the support of the Lithuanian Journalists Union (LŽS). Nine journalists received awards in four categories: informative, analytical, artistic and journalistic, as well as investigative.
This annual celebration was a beacon of hope amidst the challenges faced by Belarusian journalists. In her “key-note speech on challenges of independent journalism under dictatorship, during the war and in exile, EFJ Director Renate Schroeder said:
“The situation in Belarus is extreme with almost all independent media being wiped off, with 33 journalists in prison and most others forced to go into exile. You know the problems best: how difficult it is to search for the truth when you’re constantly surveilled when access to information is restricted and self-censorship is a question of to be or not to be. We highly respect the courage of you, who continue to do journalism as best as you can. And we support you as best as we can! And we are proud not only of the winners doing excellent journalism under extremely difficult circumstances, but also of BAJ supporting such an important event from exile.”
Created in 2007, from the idea of Andrei Aliaksandrau, the contest was canceled last year due to intensified repression, the widespread relocation of newsrooms, and the absurd labeling of BAJ and media outlets as ‘extremist‘ by the Lukashenko‘s regime in March 2023. “Andrei Aliaksandrau is now in prison, but his cause is still very much alive,” BAJ Chairman Andrei Bastunets said in his speech.
Despite these hurdles, the Free Word contest remains a symbol of unwavering commitment to the principles of truth, professional journalism, and the enduring spirit of courageous journalists. This year’s winners serve as a testament to the resilience of independent journalism in Belarus. See the journalists and productions rewarded below.
Dzmitry Pankavets, RFE/RL Belarus: “‘Nobody believed that we would stay alive’. Belarusian volunteer fighter Dzianis ‘Kit’ on atrocities in Bucha”
Yahor Parfianenka, Novaya Gazeta. Evropa: “Mariupol: the city that doesn’t exist”
Viyaleta Sauchyts, RFE/RL Belarus: “Scars of Protest. Six photo stories of August 2020 protest victims”
Dzmitry Kosach, Salidarnasc: The “Referendum” series: “The very first referendum in Belarus: a cruel joke of history”; “Why Lukashenka’s victory at the first referendum was ‘fair’, but ‘mean’”; “The last battle before Lukashenka’s complete seizure of power”; “Referendum characterized by an ‘indecent scene’: Lukashenka opposing Putin”; “Lukashenka’s nervousness – Putin’s satisfaction. 10 sad and funny moments of the 2020 referendum”
Vital Tsyhankou, RFE/RL Belarus: “Lukashenka as the guarantor of the sovereignty loss”
Aliaksandr Klaskouski, Pozirk: “Lukashenka is not ready to forgive his political enemies”
Artistic and journalistic
Zmitser Kazakevich, Belsat: “Never ask a prisoner ‘How are you?…’ Big talk with Daria Chultsova on her 38th day on the outside”
Nastassia Zeliankova, Salidarnasc: The “Women” series: “Halina Makarava. Makayonak’s fav and a woman with a shovel”; “Zoska Veras. A woman from a forest hut, who became the center of attraction of the Belarusian intelligentsia”; “She encouraged disobedience to authorities in the Belarusian language”; “Mozart in petticoats, who bought a gun for Kastus Kalinouski”.
Aliaksandr Barazenka, Dzianis Dudzinski, Belsat: The “People of war” series
Aliaksei Karpeka, Ksenia Viaznikoutsava, Volha Alkhimenka, Belarusian Investigative Center: “Lukashenka’s sanctioned ‘wallet’ Shakutsin continues business in the EU despite sanctions”