Public broadcaster Polish Radio on Saturday launched a special news service for listeners in neighbouring Belarus, where post-election protests have grown against longtime strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko.
The leader of the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party, Ihar Barysau, was cited as saying on Monday that the new Polish Radio project was helping provide his compatriots with reliable information at a time when many independent websites in that country were being blocked by authorities.
"I would like to thank the management of Polish Radio for this step,” Barysau said, as quoted by Polish Radio’s IAR news agency.
“This is really important for Belarusians because it’s an expression of solidarity with Belarus during this time,” he added.
“It strengthens our national identity, our independence and is important to us," Ihar also said.
Special news programmes produced by the Belarusian section of Polish Radio’s External Service are aired on Polish Radio 1 three times a day: at around 6:30 a.m., shortly after noon, and just after 10 p.m.
Image: Radio Poland
The initiative aims to provide Belarusians, including those living in areas where there is no internet access or facing limitations in connectivity, with easy access to up-to-date and reliable information about the situation in their country and the response of the international community, Polish Radio executives have said.
“Offering support to the people of Belarus in these difficult times, and showing solidarity by providing reliable and true information, is part of Polish Radio’s mission as a public broadcaster,” said CEO Agnieszka Kamińska.
Andrzej Rybałt, director of Polish Radio’s External Service, said that, while there is no way of knowing at this point how the situation in Belarus will progress, news programmes in Belarusian could help the public there make informed choices.
"Certainly, information flowing through the airwaves in their own language will help the people of Belarus make a decision about whether it’s worth moving closer to the Euro-Atlantic community, putting an end to dictatorship, and implementing a broad set of economic, political and social reforms,” said Rybałt, who originated the latest Polish Radio project.
Thanks to transmitters at a broadcasting centre in Solec Kujawski, north-central Poland, Polish Radio 1 can be heard on 225 kHz long wave almost throughout Europe, including the entire territory of Belarus, the IAR news agency has reported.
More than 100,000 people gathered in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Sunday for an opposition rally in spite of long-ruling leader Alexander Lukashenko's warning that "the toughest measures" would be employed to crack down on "illegal protests," news agencies have reported.
Sunday's demonstration was the latest in a series of mass gatherings in Belarus held to protest Lukashenko's claim to a sixth term as president in an election widely dismissed as rigged.
Click on the audio player above for a report by Radio Poland's Michał Owczarek.