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Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard

19:52:56
08/12/2016

russian.rt.com

The US State Department will allocate $520,000 for the training of independent journalists in Belarus. Members of the media will be trained to cover events and to conduct investigations into those the U.S. government is interested in. The corresponding grant, which RT has examined, was published on the government portal of disclosure on the applicants of financial support. It is noteworthy that some years prior to the coup in Kiev, the State Department financed similar projects in Ukraine. Experts interviewed by RT are convinced: the grant was allocated to prepare for the 2020 elections.

Help of friends

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. Department of State announced a competition among non-governmental organizations for a grant worth $520,000. From the candidates it is required, before 16th January 2017, to submit a project for the interaction with independent Belarusian journalists that will help to attract more readers to alternative media broadcasting on the Belarusian and Russian languages.

“The program needs to expand citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues of public importance, and to increase the ability of local independent media to attract more readers,” it is stated in the terms for grant projects.

It is expected that NGOs will train local journalists and editors how to write news, to conduct investigations, and to use equipment.

“The activities of the program should include training for members of the press, who will practice the skill of writing news and investigative journalism, as well as to analyze and produce multimedia content in accordance with international standards of journalism. In addition, staff need to be trained in how to work with equipment and safety measures,” it is stated in the description of the grant.

The US State Department is ready “to meet the needs of independent journalists” to provide them with comfortable working conditions. Media professionals participating in the program will receive a cash remuneration, which will be coordinated with the US State Department. Journalists, if necessary, will receive help from lawyers and psychologists.

“NGOs need to include in the plan financial assistance in the form of grants for journalists, editors, and marketing specialists, as well as to provide them with the necessary legal and psychological services to promote the professional development of independent journalists in Belarus,” it is written in the description of the grant.

The non-governmental organization will transfer part of the allocated funds to the budget of the Belarusian media, which will have to strengthen interaction with the audience, covering topics “important to society”. In the description of the grant it is reported that all events conducted by NGOs in collaboration with other agencies, as well as funding, expenses, and travel plans will be approved directly by the State Department.

Creativity in exchange for money

In the description of the grant it is specified that the project should lead to quick and lasting reforms in Belarus.

According to the governmental website of disclosure of the applicants of financial support, in 2016, the US government allocated $5 million to support the media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, $6 million for a similar project in Sri Lanka, which was planned to be fulfilled in four years, and $700,000 for cooperation with journalists in Bangladesh.

In September of this year, the State Department decided to invest $6 million in the development of the media sector of Moldova, which had to become “more resistant to political and financial pressure.”

In 2010, a grant for the same amount was allocated under a three-year project “Strengthening independent media in Palestine”, which aimed to help the government obtain the citizens’ support with the help of the media.

They remembered Kiev

Earlier, RT reported that the State Department spent considerable sums for work with the Ukrainian media, businessmen, and civil society activists.

Some years prior to the change of power in Kiev, the US State Department began financing similar projects in cooperation with the Ukrainian media and youth organizations.

As was previously noted by the media, the National Endowment for Democracy paid about $14 million to Ukrainian NGOs. From 2011, they supported anti-government demonstrations that led to mass protests in Central Kiev, and then to a complete change of power in Ukraine, including the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych.

NED for grants

The political scientist-americanist Aleksandr Asafov assumed that the American National Endowment for Democracy can get the grant from the State Department.

“Two years ago the Fund sponsored the Belarusian oppositional media and public organizations before the presidential election, so they will now be tasked with preparation for the next elections in 2020,” declared the expert in an interview with RT.

RT analysed the report published on the official website of the Fund, where it speaks about the work of the organization in Belarus since 2014.

Thus, NED spent nearly $40,000 on releasing pocket calendars and books that contained the programme of the international broadcasting media in Belarus, as well as a description of the election campaigns of the opposition in the presidential election in 2015, in which 83% of residents supported the incumbent leader Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The Fund spent $250 million on teaching for the representatives of political parties. They were taught how to conduct online consultations and to communicate with voters. Almost the same amount was allocated to ensure the safety of independent publishers, whose ability to continue working, according to staff of the Fund, was under threat.

In 2013, the Fund organized training seminars for local activists and journalists, where speakers talked about the right of land ownership.

“Seminars are held before the presidential election in 2015 in order to attract public attention to this serious local problem,” it is said in the report.

NED at the time of publication of the material did not provide RT with a comment.

Belarusian opposition

In Belarus, there are several opposition media outlets, including print media, online publications, and also radio.

For example, the international organization “Radio Svoboda” broadcasts in the country, on the website of which it states that the media is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

“In many countries, including Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Belarus, our journalists are working in great danger, are frequently harassed, threatened, physically attacked, or detained in connection with their professional activities,” it is said on the official website of the media agency.

One more news agency, Euroradio.FM, which is a partner of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), published on its website articles devoted to the activities of governmental opposition, and photo reports, for example, from an opposition rally in Central Minsk against the extension of the term of office of the President, and also against recitals of Russian journalist Vladimir Solovyov.

Oppositional media also includes the news outlets “Charter 97” and “Nasha Niva”.

“There is no sense in the current Belarusian reality to appeal to the conscience and of Lukashenko and Co., to common sense, to responsibility for the future of the country. We want to hope, to believe that Belarus is not Africa, with its constant dictatorial regimes and dictators, which are overthrow, as a rule, by bloody coups. We have already disgraced ourselves before the whole world for the fact of 22-years of existence in the center of Europe of a Belarusian uneducated, cynical dictatorship”, it is written on “Charter 97”.

“Radio Svoboda”, Euroradio.FM, “Charter 97”, and “Nasha Niva” did not provide RT with a comment.

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