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New Belarusian media is based on journalists’ initiative

Team members of Belrynok I Photo by Belrynok
Team members of Belrynok I Photo by Belrynok

It is often the case that new things are not the result of detailed long term plan, but rather the result of an unexpected situation which no one imagined would happen.

On May 11th, 2015, Belrynok appeared online in Belarus. Belrynok is an independent startup online news organisation that provides a platform for high quality information, analytic journalism and expert opinion. It focuses on the most important news in economics, politics, and society both locally and globally. Their mission is to maintain and promote basic democratic values, freedom of expression, market economy, independent views, and common sense. Belrynok is able to provide this quality content thanks to the authors who are experts in a wide variety of topics such as finance, macroeconomics, energetics, transport, geopolitics, defense potential, government control, statistics, and more.

The creation of Belrynok

‘Belarus and Market’ is an analytical weekly newspaper that was established in 1990. It has been publishing unique content and independent views of its authors for the past 25 years. In late January 2015, a new editor in chief of ‘Belarus and Market’ was introduced to the members of the newsroom. This came as a not so sweet surprise after the owner, director and previous editor in chief sold the major portion of his shares back in 2014.

The new editor in chief quickly introduced significant changes in editorial policy and a new concept of the paper. This meant the end of any political or analytical content. These changes even impacted the external authors, since any judgments or opinions were removed from their articles, which constituted copyright infringement, and was taken by the authors as violation of freedom of speech.

The following two months were tough. The newspaper employees made efforts to protect the original concept and fought to reach common ground with the new owners. However, they were not successful and so 14 people including journalists and other team members decided to quit. One might think that the failure to settle the conflict would make them feel sad and embittered. Instead, they decided to start a brand new online medium. They did so within a very short time and without any financial support. That’s how Belrynok was born.

Belrynok's homepage

Belrynok's homepage

 


This fast-paced creation of Belrynok was possible thanks to a ready-to-use Newscoop theme. Belrynok’s team was well-equipped to work with Newscoop because the website of ‘Belarus and Market’ had been working with Newscoop since 2008. The new website was ready within three weeks. The team at Belrynok plans to improve the site with new services and sections and use more features provided by Sourcefabric.

Belrynok has immediately gained support of many Belarusian media outlets, NGOs, and political parties. A number of prominent authors and analysts have expressed interest in cooperating with Belrynok.

What does the future hold for Belrynok?

Yuri Sezen, Belrynok website administrator, says, “We had built good relationships within the business community during the previous years of our work. We want to continue active cooperation with business organisations and we plan to adopt the old methods of work to our new online resource”.

Independence and quality is important for Belrynok. As Sezen continues, “We want to support the reputation of independent quality journalism and help to form the mechanisms of legalisation for independent online media in Belarus. We aim to spread independent reliable information among the Russian-speaking audiences in the Eurasian Economic Union in the context of growing propaganda of Russian media”.

To fully understand the importance of Belrynok’s mission for quality independent journalism, it’s important to understand what the media landscape in Belarus looks like. Traditionally, media are either categorized as state-run or nongovernmental. The amendments to the Law on Media which came into force earlier this year made any websites subject to limitations and administrative pressure. Besides, the nongovernmental websites can also be faced with the economic pressure, i.e. unfair competition, obstacles to business organisations who would like to advertise on such websites.

All of this paints a picture of an environment where independent and democratic media struggle to flourish, but Sezen is full of hope, “We believe that our principles and trustworthy information will help us minimize the risks of groundless pressure. We also have a lot of experience working for printed media, which has always been strictly controlled by the authorities and has always managed to avoid any limitations due to legal literacy of our authors”.

Are you running a project that is in line with our organisation’s mission and could use our help? Send us an email and we’ll see what we can do for you.

If you like what you have just read and are interested in helping us build open source tools for journalists, have a look at our open jobs.

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