“Have you come to study? Learn!”

“Dozens of students got expelled after a sitting strike” — AFP, BBC

It has been more than two months of protests on the streets of the Republic of Belarus. In August, Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, again won the presidential election and started his 6th term in office. The opposition claimed that the election result was falsified, and people started going to the protests, which were and continue to be brutally dispersed. Worldwide, students are usually one of the protests’ driving forces (look at student protests in the UK or the protests in Thailand, led by the students). Belarus is not an exception: many students were actively participating in the protests, and now they are being punished for this.

On the 27th of October, Alexander Lukashenko announced that students and teachers who participate in the protests should be expelled from their universities. “Have you come to study? Learn! Whoever went out in violation of the law for unauthorized actions is deprived of the right to be a student. Please send them, as I said, some to the army and some to the streets. Let them walk. The same goes for the teachers,” translates his speech the PledgeTimes.

However, different newspapers presented this quote differently. Let’s take two Russian-language media: one of the most significant opposition’s newspapers, Meduza, and the largest federal news agency, TASS. They both released concise articles that mainly bring up Lukashenko’s quote. The first thing that catches the eye is that TASS still calls Lukashenko “the president of Belorussia” when Meduza calls him only by his last name, indicating that they do not believe the results of the election either. The Meduza’s article also adds at the end the fact that Lukashenko has already “threatened” the students before, when the TASS’s article chooses more moderate words as “Lukashenko… has drawn attention” to the students’ protests. When the president threatens somebody, he obviously draws attention to them, but these words aren’t interchangeable, are they?

It is possible to go even further and compare how the Belarusian national newspaper, BelTA, presented the news and how BBC did it. They both wrote longer articles on the topic, combining the news about the students and other parts of the protest that were happening that day. They carry very different names. The BBC’s is called: “The little one was expelled. I feel proud”, which is a quote from a tweet of a girl who says that her younger brother was expelled for going to the protests. The BelTA’s one, on the other hand, is called: “Lukashenko: there is a terrorist war against us. We must stop it,” which is Lukashenko’s words about the protests. 

In the pictures in the BBC’s article, we see workers and students on the strikes; in the BelTA’s article, we only see Lukashenko in his office with some of the civil servants by his side. The BBC’s article provides information that around 50 people were expelled from Belarusian National Technical University, while the BelTA’s article adds more quotes from Lukashenko, stating that there are only a few people who don’t want to work (and go to labor strikes), and Poland and Lithuania pay all of them. BBC’s article ends with a phrase that Lukashenko has become fierce in his speeches, and then BelTA’s article proves it, showing yet another of Lukashenko’s quotes, directed to parents: “get your kids off the street so that it won’t be painful afterward.”

Four newspapers presented the same piece of news within contrasting contexts, which makes all the difference. The media cannot hide the truth, but the media may present it in a way that one thing would seem like a completely different thing.

Written by Anastasia Lavrenyuk

References:

  1. Alexis Golden. (2020, October 9). “The assembly line of exams: have we lost our way with results-driven academics?” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from Four Continents One Blog
  2. Andrey Kozenko. (2020, October 30). “‘The little one was expelled. I feel proud.’ How in Belarus went the week after the announcement of ‘all-national strike.’” BBC.  Retrieved November 04, 2020 from BBC.
  3. BBC. (2020, September 16). “The student daring to challenge Thailand’s monarchy.” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from BBC.
  4. BelTA. (2020, October 27). “Lukashenko: against us was launched already not an informational, but a terrorist war in seperate directions. We must stop it.” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from BelTA.
  5. Bhavi Mandalia. (2020, October 27). “Lukashenko decided to expel protesting students from universities.” PledgeTimes. Retrieved November 04, 2020 from PledgeTimes.
  6. Meduza. (2020, October 27). “Lukashenko demanded to expel the students who participate in the protests.” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from Meduza.
  7. TASS. (2020, October 27). “Lukashenko declared that participating in protests students should be expelled.” Retrieved November 04, 2020 from TASS.

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