University-owned radio station gets rap on knuckles

November 1, 2002

Radio stations in Belarusia have been told to concentrate on entertainment rather than on news after a station partly owned by the state university wrongly reported that the government had banned the media from a summit between two youth groups.

A correspondent from the FM station Unistar, in which the Belarusia State University has a 51 per cent holding, was refused entry to a merger conference between the Belarusian Patriotic Youth League and the Belarusian Youth League. Membership of the PYL has become virtually mandatory for students if they want hostel accommodation, bursaries and so on.

A report that all independent media were excluded was subsequently posted on the website of the human rights watchdog Charter 97, and later repeated on air.

Information minister Mikhail Padhayny summoned the managers of FM stations for a briefing and complained about the "incorrect" coverage of the conference.

He has since held weekly briefings in which station managers are told what to focus their attention on. This, he told the newspaper Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta , was a reminder "that they need to be more cautious".

Unistar director Lyubov Isachkina responded by taking a presenter off air and suspending a news editor. She said that Unistar could not be involved in activities that the university and other stakeholder, German company Arbo Media Net, "have not duly authorised - that is, politics".

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