Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Tupilak-supported meeting in Vilnius and a Competition for Belarus journalism combating homophobia.

Round Table Discussion: “Social Consequences of Irrelevant Coverage of LGBT Issues in Mass Media” (Vilnius, June 16, 2012)

A round table discussion with participation of journalists, human rights activists, and LGBT-community representatives from Belarus,UkraineSweden, and Lithuania took place in Vilnius, Lithuania on June 16, 2012.

There were presented the results of the Belarusian media monitoring activities, focused on the coverage of LGBT-community problematic in the Belarusian media in 2011 as well as a survey results, showing the Belarusian editors’ opinions on the problem of homophobia in the modern press.

“The problem of LGBT community discrimination is not unique, since discrimination is also faced by a number of other social groups, including people with disabilities, representatives of other races and nationalities, opposition activists etc. The main objective of the monitoring was to inspire other social groups to fight against stereotypes in the society and struggle against discrimination”, noted Max Kavaliou, the Belarusian  LGBT Journalists’ Group activist.

The conducted survey showed that the Belarusian editors are aware of the problem of discrimination of homosexuals. However, they are not always ready to cover the issue. Most often, journalists are eager to write about the LGBT-community in the context of ‘hot stuff’, thinking little about the eventual consequences.

The Belarus’ Gay Alliance representative Aliaksandr Paluyan drew the Round Table discussion participants’ attention to the fact that the journalists, who write about gays of lesbians often mix up terms and notions in their articles. Also, they sometimes use irrelevant illustrations to support their texts. Thus, e.g., in the articles about the recent Gay Pride in Minsk they used photos from Gay Parades in Europe, despite knowing that the snaps do not reflect the real events in Minsk with the police attacks and arrests of activists.

During the Round Table discussion, the journalists analyzed several highly offensive articles on the LGBT problematic, including a Web-publication by Vasil Siamashka (BelaPAN News Agency) and an Open letter by a writer Vasil Yakavienka in the “Narodnaya Vola” independent newspaper. The ournalists decided to submit a collective appeal to the “Narodnaya Vola” editorial with a request to publish an article with counter-arguments to Mr Yakavienka and
address the Ethics Committee at the Belarusian Association of Journalists with a request to consider the “Narodnaya Vola” editorial’s standpoint on the issue.

The BAJ Ethics Committee member Marina Zagorskaya presented the role and functions of the Committee and gave a piece of advice on preparation of appeals to the Committee members.

The Belarusian LGBT Journalists’ Group in cooperation with the supporting media workers is preparing a special brochure on the accurate and correct coverage of LGBT problematic, including the analysis of the most frequent journalists’ mistakes as well as recommendations and practical advice to reporters and columnists on improvement of standards of writing on LGBT subjects. 

Experts and distinguished guests from Sweden, Ukraine, and Lithuania attended the Round Table discussion.

The chairman of TUPILAK (Nordic  LGBT Cultural Workers)  Bill Schiller noted that homophobia can be seen also in many countries of Western
Europe. “Teenagers and youngsters are also among homophobic group in Sweden. Also, a small but very vocal political party in the Swedish Parliament deprecates the LGBT community. A similar situation can be observed in Finland, France, and Hungary. The LGBT people from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have to fight every year, in order to arrange a Gay Pride. 

"The problems can be found even in the Netherlands -- even if Amsterdam might seem to be a real heaven on earth for LGBT  people. However, prides arranged in smaller, provincial towns are attacked by homophobies and hooligans even in front of TV cameras. Therefore, even when near- perfect legislation for LGBT rights are adopted as has been done in Sweden, Norway, Canada and elsewhere, there is still a need to improve public opinion in relation to the LGBT-people. It is necessary to make use of LGBT culture and to actively cooperate with journalists, since the latter form the public opinion and can become a highly efficient force in the process of overcoming stereotypes about the LGBT community as well as in the fight against homophobia”, Bill Schiller said.

Aliaksandr Voitenko, the representative of ‘We Understand Human Rights’ educational program (Ukraine) draw the Round Table meeting participants to the fact that pro-homophobic legislative acts are adopted in the neighboring Russia and Ukraine, and that the dangerous trend should be
terminated by efforts of international civil community representatives.

The Belarusian LGBT Journalists’ community members are convinced that the present frustrating presence of homophobia in Belarus should be eliminated due to the relevant presentation of LGBT problematic in the media. Therefore, the Group members are going to arrange and hold presentations of the informational brochure and arrange topical discussions with the Belarusian journalists and editors on the issue in Minsk and in the Belarusian regions.

“The Best Anti-Discrimination Journalists in Belarus - 2012” were announced at the end of the Round Table meeting in Vilnius.

The international journalist jury selected among more than a dozen of nominees the articles of two journalists from the Belarusian regions:

The FIRST place – Volha Hrytsenka (Brest) – “What Do the Deaf People Watch in Belarus – TV or TV-sets?” (“Что смотрят неслышащие в Беларуси – телевизор или телевидение?”), ‘Vmestie’ (‘Together’) newspaper, 13.04.2012

The SECOND place – Andrei Kuzmin (Krychau, Mahilou region) – “Шэсць санэтаў” (‘Six Sonets’), ‘Nasha Dumka’ Info-newsletter, August 2011

The choice of topics and their efficient presentation with the use of professional journalistic tools was taken into consideration by the jury members in the selection process.

The winners will receive honorary diploma and special awards from TUPILAK and the Belarusian LGBT Journalists’ Group activists as well as and a possibility to visit the TUPILAK activists in Stockholm with a journalist mission in the coming year.

-- Press Service of Belarusian LGBT Journalists’ Group