Belarus was one of the hottest topics at the United States-Central Europe Strategy Forum which took place in Prague on 26-27 October 2011. Policy makers, government officials and analysts from both sides of Atlantic tried to resolve the Belarusian puzzle at the Forum, which had a dedicated session called “Belarus at the Brink: Planning for Life After Lukashenka”.
Forum participants noted the importance of effective media in Belarusian context where television and radio are tightly controlled by the authorities. They agreed that no matter how good the messages of the opposition or of the civil society could be, if they do not reach the population these messages will remain ineffective. The participants praised efforts of the Polish government, the main sponsor of the only independent Belarusian channel Belsat.
It is important to monitor real effectiveness of various media projects and pay more attention to Internet as the main method of delivery of information to Belarusians. Belarus has one of the highest decrees of Internet saturation in the region and the importance of Internet will further grow.
So far Belarusians use internet primarily for entertainment and the important task is to make Internet products more attractive to the wider spectrum of Belarusians. This could be achieved by better integrating video products and citizen journalism into traditional websites. It has also been noted that Belsat website requires more work to make it more user-friendly and easier to navigate, which would greatly improve its popularity.
The new media age requires revision and evaluation of current Belarus-focused media projects. That could include channeling funds used for shortwave broadcasting to development of video, social networks and other interactive content. While for some countries shortwave broadcasting will remain important, in countries with more internet users such as Belarus, shortwave will be replaced with more modern technologies.