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RFE/RL Journalist’s Work To Protect Belarusian Language Awarded

Valancin Viacorka, a journalist for RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, received his award from the Assembly of NGO’s in Belarus January 10 at a ceremony in Minsk.

The Assembly of Non-Governmental Organizations of Belarus has recognized Speaking Belarusian, a project authored by Valancin Viacorka of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL’s) Belarus Service, as the “Best Media Activity of 2018” in its annual Civil Society Champions contest.

Viacorka accepted the award at a ceremony in Minsk January 10.

“It is a pleasure to know that this work, this emphasis on such values as linguistic rights, linguistic identity, and cultural tradition is not in vain,” said Viacorka on receiving the award.

In a series of texts, short videos, audio, infographics, quizes, and other interactive materials, Viacorka’s project allows audiences to engage with Belarusian, a language that suffered under Soviet rule when the use of Russian was enforced in the public sphere, and which is now classified as “vulnerable” by UNESCO.

“The linguistic identity of Belarusians is under threat in dangerous geopolitical circumstances and must be preserved," Viacorka tells RFE/RL Pressroom. "Meanwhile, there is a high interest in language matters in society.”

Speaking Belarusian is published on six platforms (TV, online, Facebook, Instagram, VKontakte, and radio), and is used as a teaching aid at schools and universities. The series has received over 30 thousand page views on RFE/RL‘s website alone since October 2018.

Viacorka joined RFE/RL in the early 1990’s with his weekly radio program on language and cultural matters. He later co-authored the weekly radio program Uninhabited Heritage, an exploration of forgotten Belarusian heritage. In 2010 he began organizing meet ups in Minsk for youth and adults to practice Belarusian and discuss ways to protect the language. Viacorka has published two books with RFE/RL’s series Liberty Libraries on the distinct and vibrant language of Belarusian.

In its tenth year, the annual Civil Society Champions competition recognized journalists and media outlets in ten categories. The 57 projects that made the shortlist were judged by a jury of 112 community leaders, experts, and journalists from all over Belarus.

RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, known locally as Radio Svaboda, is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. The Service ranks first among Belarusian media on Facebook, Twitter, and VKontakte, with a total combined weekly engagement of over 100,000, and a combined weekly reach of almost 7.5 million views.