March 31 – April 6, 2014

Belarus in Focus workshop and award ceremony held in Warsaw

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Belarus in Focus workshop and award ceremony held in Warsaw

Warsaw, April 2nd 2013 | An award ceremony was held last week in Warsaw for the winners of Belarus in Focus 2013 – the third edition of a competition for journalists writing about Belarus for international media.

The ceremony brought to a close a two-day workshop for 14 journalists, many of whom who had taken part in the competition. ‘Such gatherings’, said Yuliya Slutskaya, director of Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, ‘allow journalists who write about Belarus for an international audience to get to know each other, exchange experiences, ideas, and plan joint work on articles in the future: Belarusian participants know the internal situation well, and international journalists are able to offer their perspectives on how Belarusian issues fit the international context’.

Yuliya Slutskaya, SBIO director, congratulates Prof. David Marples, head of the Belarus in Focus 2013 jury

In this way, the project aims to provide a communication platform that brings together journalists from different countries and helps them in their work in writing about Belarus.

This year, 67 articles from 55 authors from 14 countries were evaluated (see infographic).

After a month-long judging process, the jury – headed by Prof. David R. Marples, University of Alberta (UK/Canada), and consisting of Andrei Aliaksandrau, Index on Censorship (Belarus/UK), Michael Andersen, NIRAS (Denmark), Maria Przełomiec, Telewizja Polska (Poland) and Pavel Sheremet, Belarus Partisan (Belarus/Russia) – chose the following winners:


Mariya Martysevich is awarded by Michael Andersen

Argemino Barro is awarded by David Marples


Pavel Sheremet congratulates Evgeny Karpov

Andrei Aliaksandrau congratulates Katerina Przybylska (Barushka)

Winners in the professional category received prizes of 500 EUR each, and 300 EUR for those in the beginners’ category.

Among the articles in the Professional Journalist category, Brigitte Geiselhart (Germany) received recognition for her media project ‘Polotsk writes for Friedrichshafen’ (a series of articles in the beginners’ section which had been published in the German newspaper Südkurier), as well as Izabela Meyza (Poland) for her articleThe hidden life of a dead roe deer (Kontynenty, Dec 1, 2013).

Of the beginner journalists, Annabelle Chapman (UK), was acknowledged for her articles Political theatre: Dying on stage (The Economist, Prospero Blog, June 5, 2013), Belarusian Warsaw – ghetto or gilded cage?(openDemocracy, Sept 12, 2013).

In his statement as the head of the judges’ panel, Prof. David R. Marples identified some of the underlying themes of the articles, such as the concept of Belarus as a quasi-Soviet or post-Soviet state, and made some suggestions for future articles.

Alexandra Kirby, who has coordinated the competition since it started in 2011, said: ‘By promoting good quality articles about Belarus in the international media, we can help to dismantle the black-and-white perception of this country, and assist in overcoming the relative isolation of Belarusian society.

Alexandra Kirby, Belarus in Focus project coordinator

Looking ahead

Project coordinator Alexandra Kirby said that there are plans next year to create separate categories for Belarusian and non-Belarusian journalists (both will include beginner and professional journalists), as the two groups face a different set of challenges: on the one hand, Belarusian journalists generally have a higher level of knowledge and understanding of the situation in Belarus, yet this can be a barrier in explaining the situation to an outside audience. International journalists, on the other hand, need to invest a lot of time and resources in getting to know Belarus – including its people, culture, and languages – in order to avoid reproducing certain stereotypes which are deeply rooted in the Western media discourse.

‘We are trying to encourage Belarusian journalists to take an active part in international media platforms, so that their voices are among those who speak out about Belarus. Their version of the reality of what is happening in Belarus also needs to reach an international audience’, adds Tatsiana Netbayeva, projects coordinator at Solidarity with Belarus Information Office.

The competition organizers also plan to introduce a special nomination for best media project about Belarus for an international audience.

About Belarus in Focus 2013

Belarus in Focus 2013 workshop participants, jury members, and organisers

By increasing the amount of good quality articles about Belarus in the international media, the aim behind the competition is to draw the attention of the international community to issues inside Belarus which, in turn, can strengthen ties with Belarusian society.

Belarus in Focus is an annual international competition for journalists writing about Belarus for international media, organized by Solidarity with Belarus Information Office and Press Club Polska. In 2013, it was supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers and NIRAS.

Information partners include: Belarusian PEN Centre (Minsk), Civic Belarus (Prague), European Federation of Journalists (Brussels), (Kiev), TeleKritika (Kiev), n-ost, the Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe (Berlin), Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels), and Ostgruppen (Sweden).

By Solidarity with Belarus Information Office

Photos courtesy of Natalia Belikova

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