In the world press the plight of independent journalists in Belarus has been largely ignored in recent years, but on Friday the former Czech president Vaclav Havel offered a symbolic gesture of support to one journalist struggling under the Lukashenko regime. Mr Havel received the Hanno R. Ellenbogen award for his contribution to democracy in Central Europe and decided to pass on the financial part of the award to Andrej Dynko, editor-in-chief of the independent Belarussian political and cultural weekly, Nasha Niva. It was an act of solidarity from Central Europe's most celebrated former dissident. So what kind of difficulties does a newspaper like Nasha Niva face in Lukashenko's Belarus? Just after the ceremony David Vaughan caught up with Andrej Dynko.
"Belarus is a very modern dictatorship with no hard repressions. Independent newspapers are published but they exist in conditions of economic discrimination and political discrimination. You know, the authorities are contolling the distribution networks, printing houses. An independent newspaper has to pay for the printing and the distribution three times more than the state-owned papers pay. So it is difficult, and these difficulties are even more harmful because they are less evident. When the oppression is evident there is also help. These are the conditions."
How significant is the support of people like Vaclav Havel for the opposition and the independent media in Belarus?
"It has a great moral value, because Belarussians feel themselves forgotten by Europe by the world. They often feel themselves alone in their struggle, which is similar in some points with the struggle of the Czechs and the Poles twenty years ago. These kinds of awards and events remind us that we are not alone."
How significant is to you personally the personality of Vaclav Havel? He was in many ways a symbol of the opposition in Central Europe for many years up until 1989.
"He is well known, he is translated into Belarussian, up to now every year a new book has appeared in Belarussian and he is a person highly respected in Belarus too."
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