Freedom of Speech in Belarus – Through the Stone Wall

The first Tampere Freedom of Speech Event is held on Tuesday September 26th at 6.30 pm at Culture House Laikku in Tampere. Admission is free but the event requires a pre-registration.

Freedom of Speech in Belarus ­– Through the Stone Wall

Tue 26.9. at 6.30 pm

Culture House Laikku, Music and Lecture Hall,
Keskustori 4, Tampere

Coffee is offered during the event. The event ends at approximately 8.30 pm. Admission is free but requires a pre-registration on the Finnish Cultural Foundation website (please use code PI2609).

In the middle of the political, economic and freedom of speech maps of Europe there is a black hole. Belarus ranks as state number 157 in the annual global Press Freedom Index (Reporters Without Borders 2023).

Vasemmalla mustapaitainen mies, oikealla nainen mustassa jakussa ja punaisessa paidassa.
Lawyer and human rights advocate Leanid Sudalenka (left) and journalist Ingrid Svanfeldt

Among the more than 1.500 political prisoners of Belarus, around 40 journalists are sitting in prisons. From the Editor-In-Chief of the largest news media, which was banned in 2021, to the creators of a popular car magazine, their lives have been canceled. The prison sentences are as long as 12 years. Communicating with the ones in prison is not possible.

We hear from the former political prisoner, lawyer, and human rights advocate Leanid Sudalenka. He was released from a Belarusian prison on 21st of July after serving a bogus three-year sentence.

Lawyer Sudalenka has for more than 20 years defended human rights and Belarusian citizens whose rights are grossly violated by the government. His work has been honored by the distinguished human rights award of the French Republic, “Liberté-Égalité-Fraternité” first in 2018 and again together with other imprisoned Belarusian human rights advocates in 2021.

Mr. Sudalenka led the work of the human rights organization Viasna (Spring), founded by Ales Bialiatski, in the second biggest city of Belarus, Homel. Bialiatski received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 and in his home country a ten-year prison sentence. After being released from prison, Mr. Sudalenka fleed Belarus to Lithuania.

Silmälasipäinen mies mustassa pikkutakissa ja valkoisessa kauluspaidassa katsoo hymyillen kameraan.
Lännen Media´s Editor-In-Chief Matti Posio

On a remote line, we also hear from a Belarusian news reporter about work in exile. The biggest Belarusian news service was raided and closed, Editor-In-Chief and Manager imprisoned since 2021.

Journalist Ingrid Svanfeldt talks about the faiths of journalists in Belarus, where freedom of speech means a choice between exile / prison or participating in the ways of the dictatorship. In the online game ‘Hero of Freedom of Speech’, published by the YLE, you can try your hand surviving as a news journalist in the Belarus dictatorship (in Finnish).

The discussion is moderated, guests interviewed by Lännen Media´s Editor-In-Chief Matti Posio.

This Tampere Freedom of Speech event is co-organized by the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s Pirkanmaa regional Fund, Pan-European Institute (Turku University) and City of Tampere / Operation Pirkanmaa.

Register here