Belarus: BTRC suspension from the European Broadcasting Union to expire in 2024

The Belarusian Eurovision broadcaster already opened in June BTRC was expelled from the European Broadcasting Union. This means that the Minsk-based broadcaster will no longer be entitled to access a number of EBU services, including participation in the Eurovision Song Contest and Junior Eurovision. Belarusian participation in the Eurovision 2022 in Italy was thus effectively ruled out.

Now the general director of BTRC – Ivan Eismont – has made it clear that the suspension should currently last three years. Speak with SB.by, he said the ban will last for three years starting July 1, 2021. This means that BTRC cannot return as a full member of the EBU until July 1, 2024 unless the EBU reviews the suspension and decides to to shorten them.

Belarus suspended from the European Broadcasting Union

As reported by the independent Belarusian radio station Euroradio, On Wednesday June 30th, the EBU held a meeting to discuss the future of the BTRC in the union.

There the EBU decided that as of Thursday, July 1st, BTRC will no longer be able to access EBU services. These services include the exchange of news and music content, the right to broadcast EBU sports and music events, legal and technical research, and interest protection services.

This includes the right of Belarus to take part in the Eurovision Song Contest and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. In order for a country to be allowed to participate in Eurovision, it must be represented by a broadcaster with an EBU membership. With the departure of BTRC, Belarus did not represent any member stations in the EBU.

To date, Belarus is one of only two countries that has participated in every edition of Junior Eurovision since it was founded in 2003.

This is the first time that a country cannot participate in Eurovision due to its exclusion from the EBU.

Why did the EBU exclude the BTRC from Belarus?

BTRC’s exclusion from the EBU is sudden, but not unexpected.

In May 2021, the board of the EBU suspended BTRC after the Arrest of the opposition activist Roman Protasevich and the Closure of the largest independent media portal in Belarus.

In its original statement, the EBU wrote:

“The EBU has closely monitored the suppression of media freedom in Belarus and, as a member of the EBU, has always called on BTRC to uphold our core values ​​of freedom of expression, independence and accountability.

Since last summer’s controversial elections, we have been campaigning to protect independent journalism and freedom of expression in the country. We publicly supported journalists at BTRC who protested against state interference. We have also monitored BTRC’s reporting and communicated our concerns to management.

In recent weeks we have been particularly concerned about the broadcast of interviews that appear to have been obtained under duress.

We have also monitored other BTRC broadcasts on the same subject that have raised other serious and very exceptional concerns.

In view of these extraordinary developments, the Executive Board has no choice but to propose the suspension of BTRC’s membership in the EBU. “

The originally proposed suspension gave the government-affiliated broadcaster two weeks to respond. Although they did not do so publicly, it is not known whether they responded privately to the EBU.

The broadcaster also had to withdraw from the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam after the EBU had declared that Galasy ZMesta’s contribution “Ya nauchu tebya” violated the Eurovision rules and violated the apolitical character of the song contest. The following entry by the group “Pesnyu pro zaytsa” also contained anti-government messages that ultimately led to the country being excluded from the 2021 competition.

Although this incident is not listed as an official reason for the suspension and eventual expulsion of BTRC, it does reflect many of the issues listed above in the EBU’s original statement.

Read more news on Belarus’ Eurovision 2021 here

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