Information hero

Zhanna Litvina

The name Zhanna Litvina is familiar among the independent journalists still left in Belarus. The Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ), which she founded in 1995, has provided critical support, such as legal assistance, documentation of press freedom violations, vocational training, advocacy for legislative reform, in the face of daily abuses by “Europe’s last dictatorship”. The BAJ’s tireless struggle has earned it numerous awards, including the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, and Litvina is its perfect incarnation. She was editor at a state radio station during the years of perestroika in the Soviet Union and set a new, liberal tone. The station was closed down on the eve of the presidential election in 1995, which swept Alexander Lukashenko to power. Litvina then launched her own privately owned radio station, and when this, too, was taken off air, she began broadcasting from Poland. Being president of the BAJ is no easy matter. In an atmosphere of growing repression, Litvina was the target of a smear campaign on state television in February 2012. In the ensuing months, she was banned from leaving the country. However, the BAJ pursued its unequal struggle. Today it has more than 1,000 members and five regional branches, as well as its head office in Minsk.