Yesterday I went with PEN to support a demonstration for the people of Belarus, “Europe’s last dictatorship.” It was organised by Free Belarus Now, the Belarus Free Theatre and Index on Censorship. The Almeida Theatre were also in attendance.
As were, somewhat crucially, Jude Law and Kevin Spacey. Here are my photos of the event:
The demo began outside the offices of Grayling PR, who have set up an office in Minsk and promote morally compromised businesses in Belarus. Keenly aware of the PR damage such an association might cause, the CEO of Grayling posted a blog on the issue. Michael Murphy pointed out that companies he promotes in Belarus provide local jobs, and lauds the ‘economic opportunity’ that they provide. However, without free expression and democratic checks, this so-called ‘opportunity’ is meaningless, limited only to those who acquiesce to Alexander Lukashenko brutal methods of control. Murphy’s words are hollow, his reasoning unsound and amoral.
A salient fact from the blog sticks out:
There are no UN sanctions against Belarus
Well, quite. This is a huge political failure. Leaving Grayling’s offices behind, the demonstrators walked down Victoria Street to the Houses of Parliament, to lobby British MPs on this issue and demand a tougher stance against Lukashenko and his cronies. New and free elections are sorely needed, and the political prisoners – journalists, activists and presidential candidates – must be released.
Now watch this video of the demonstration, including a short and eloquent paean to freedom of expression from Mr Law: