The five orange and white display stands parked outside RFE's Prague headquarters say "Smile for Belarus." It is a curious slogan referring to a country widely considered the last dictatorship in Europe. However, in Belarus, humor can serve as a catalyzing and subversive form of protest.
The display features the work of De Lez, an anonymous Belarusian cartoonist and humorist. De Lez's frequent targets include long-time Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and the state-controlled media. One of De Lez's most iconographic images is the ballot box depicted as a garbage can - an acerbic commentary on the voter fraud allegations plaguing Lukashenko's regime.
De Lez Belarus Cartoon Exhibit
Before coming to RFE, the exhibit was displayed at the Forum 2000 Conference in Prague earlier this month, where it received an enthusiastic reception.
Belarus is the only country in Europe where RFE is prohibited from broadcasting content through local affiliates. Instead, local listeners must rely on Cold War-era shortwave radios to tune in to Radio Svaboda
, as the Belarusian station is known. However, as Internet connectivity within the country has increased, so has the ability of the people to access free information unencumbered by state interference. Despite numerous cyber-attacks against www.svaboda.org
, the website has persevered against Belarusian state media filters and is one of the most reliable venues through which to display De Lez’s work.
--John Connor Cleveland