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RFE/RL Belarus Service Wins Multiple Awards for Innovative Storytelling

Let's Confuse the Country: An Alternative History of Belarus in Cartoons
Let's Confuse the Country: An Alternative History of Belarus in Cartoons

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Belarus Service has brought in a torrent of awards in 2019, with over a dozen of its reporters honored for compelling and innovating journalism. The awards recognized stories powerfully told using video, podcasts, and even quizzes.

Said Alexander Lukashuk, the Service’s Director, “It is our mission and our duty to shed light on social, political, and historical injustices past and present, and give voice to the injured, through compelling and innovative storytelling. We are extremely proud of the work of the numerous journalists cited.”

In May, Belarus Service journalists Katsiaryna Markouskaja and Maxim Lauretski were awarded second place for “Best Story” by Belarus’s Office for Rights of People with Disabilities for their three-part video story about Valiantsina Karvat, who suffers from epilepsy. Karvat was declared incompetent and placed under guard in a psychiatric institution after complaining that her doctor provided insufficient care.

In March, journalists Siahiei Shupa, Zmitsier Bartosik, and Jan Maksymiuk were lauded at the Transparent ELO literary awards, an inaugural competition sponsored by the online magazine LitPAZH recognizing excellence in electronic publishing and the work of Belarusian language authors. Shupa won “Best Literary Audiocast” for his 42-episode podcast series on the founding of the Belarus National Republic, which uses humor to examine archival material chronicling the emergence of an independent Belarus one century ago. Bartosik won “Best Non-Fiction E-Book” for The Chinese Dentist’s Clinic, a collection of pieces about life in rural Belarusian towns and villages. Bartosik also produced 33 podcasts to accompany the book. Maksymiuk was awarded “Best Web Literature Project” for his “Only on Literature” Facebook group that encourages members to post original writing, comment on the work of their peers, and discuss Belarusian and foreign literature and art.

The Belarusian Press Club’s second annual Focus on Innovation competition highlighted the Service’s commitment to new forms of storytelling with three awards: Let’s Confuse the Country: An Alternative History of Belarus in Cartoons; the interactive quiz What Part of My Life has Been Under Lukashenka?; and a series of interviews exploring political repression in Belarus under Stalin. Following one installment about mass executions in the Vitebsk region city of Vorsha, local citizens pressured officials to repair a monument on the site where thousands of prisoners were killed.

RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, Radio Svaboda, provides news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. The Service ranks first among Belarusian media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and VKontakte, with a total combined weekly engagement of over 100,000, and a combined weekly reach of almost 7.5 million views. This year, the service marked its 65th anniversary on May 20.

--Eric Baker