Suicide of 33 y old, female human rights activists Yana Palyakova shocked many in Belarus and detonated debates on journalist responsibility.
She hanged her up 7 March, early morning in here flat in small town Saligorsk, the next day after defamatory column in the president’s daily. After doesn’t mean because, but the link is obvious.
Her untimely death, not properly investigated by police as it should have been done in such situation, left many questions unanswered. She could have been just one more political prisoner in Belarus, but she left no chances for herself. No hope. No illusions…
Why young, beautiful, well educated, lady, lawyer by profession, who work in the country, moving toward democracy as it had been accepted recently by EU, choose stranlger made from dog-lead as the ultimate mean to protest? Was this disparaging article main reason? Or just last straw?
What is responsibility of journalist who libelled her, even if Lukashenko daily used same offensive and cynical style as “house speciality” for many years? Was Palyakova too delicate, too vulnerable? Or her life was just intolerable? Did she want to disappear from the memory of public or stay remembered forever? What is the price of life in the country after all?The list is open… There are too many rumours and too little credible information.
The cynical columnist covered himself with clearly invented pen name — Ksenofont Superphosphate’off, as a hint to the fact that mineral fertilizers are produced in Saligorsk mines and exported to the Europe and worldwide.
Many believe that this and other numerous articles of such style are written by Paval Yakubovich himself, 63 y old, fervent supporter of current Belarus dictator and editor in chief of “Soviet Belarus-Belarus today” since 1994 when Lukashenko came to power.
First time in the history of the newspaper the article was deleted from the site just next day after Palyakova suicide, 8 March, what is public holiday in Belarus. But it’s easy to read in each of about half million printed issues, distributed all over the country .
Besides, editorial position is expressed clearly on the Forum on daily site (www.sb.by, nickname — administrator): Palyakova wanted make an international scandal, based on invented pretext, she should have been punished for libelling police, she was evidently mentally ill, the whole tone is pretty usual for such publications.
It’s “an abominable and insulting publication. This is a shame for Belarusian journalism”, — said Chairperson of independent Belarus Association of Journalists Janna Litvina 10 of March. Litvina urged to launch full investigation of the tragedy.
11 March, pro-government Belarus Union of Journalists issued dedicated statement and expressed its indignation by “sensation raised by non-state press and the Chairperson of Belarusian Association of Journalists Zhanna Litvina" and blamed them for "politicking” and “dancing on fresh grave“.
In response, Andrei Bastunets in his web blog urged Yakubovich leave the post of Chairperson in recently created Joint Media Advisory Group, which combines representatives from state and independent Belarus media. "The thing is that the Group has to deal with issues in the Media field and come up with recommendations. And it’s at least strange if the person who bears responsibility for the publication on Palyakova, could lead the Group after that”, Bastunets wrote.
Yakobovich, didn’t resign. Thursday 26 March he advised to develop Belarus Code of Ethics for Journalists. “Belarus journalist community divided into two camps, journalists slam each other, make verbal attacks on each other, what is unethical“, — said Yakubovich during the first meeting of the Group. The proposition sounds horribly hypocrite, given to all previous story. But it’s accepted by the majority and working team is created.
During this meeting Janna Litvina, reminded that Code of Ethics normally is a tool of self regulation inside each journalist organisation. Actually BAJ and pro-government Union of journalists have two different Code of Ethics. “We have to learn how to use current norms“, she said. By her, one more rule book can be just one more tool to pressurize independent media. She accepted that’s now is very right time to talk about Ethics and urged again to discuss and evaluate thoroughly the situation which forced to suicide Yana Palyakova.
Despite all public requests and indignation, Superphosphate’off, or whoever is hidden under this nickname keeps silence so far. Does he work hardly, looking for the next one victim?