In Belarus, a country within Europe and bordering the European Union, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime continues to stifle free speech and fend off calls for democracy. We’ve previously posted about how clapping in the street can earn you an arrest, now it seems a photo with a teddy bear can do that too.
Last week a Swedish PR firm parachuted teddy bears holding messages about democracy over Minsk, democracy in an attempt to break through the heavy media censorship. This caused a diplomatic dispute, with Lukashenko asking all Swedish diplomats within Belarus to leave. Since then two journalists have been arrested in Belarus. Arrested just for taking photos of themselves with one of the teddy bears dropped over Minsk.
In a show of solidarity, Liberal Youth began the Bears for Belarus campaign, as part of our broader campaign to raise awareness of Lukashenko’s regime. To show their support for the arrested Belarusian journalists, and for human rights and democracy not just in Belarus but worldwide, Liberal Youth members were asked to send in a picture of themselves with their teddy bear.
Since launching, Bears for Belarus has gone viral. We’ve had pictures sent in from several different countries, people who have never before been involved in politics, and from Lib Dem MPs such as Alastair Carmichael, and Mike Crockart. The site has got well over 10,000 views worldwide – several thousand of these from within Belarus. We’ve also had articles about the campaign in several different Belarusian media outlets. This shows that we can really make an impact, and to show political activists in Belarus that they’re not alone.
Getting involved in this campaign is a great way to show your support for fundamental rights, such as a free speech and the right to protest to, that the Liberal Democrats believe in so strongly.
Visit the campaign at bearsforbelarus.wordpress.com to find out more.
To take part, send a picture of yourself with a soft toy to [email protected] or [email protected] with a message of support to show solidarity. If you wish to remain anonymous then there is no need for you to be in the picture.