IFJ/EFJ Message of Congratulations to the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ)
Dear Zhanna, Dear Andrei, Dear BAJ,
It is with a mixture of great sorrow and comfort that we received the news of the change of BAJ leadership that took place last Friday during the Congress.
As your chair Zhanna Litvina has been a tremendous force for independent journalism, demonstrating incredible fortitude, courage and determination in a twenty year struggle against authoritarian government. In doing so she has helped motivate journalists across the country to stick with the profession and to stand up for its principles. To do so she has had to face down tremendous hostility and abuse and threats to her liberty. But she has never shirked that responsibility.
Moreover she has taken the message of BAJ abroad and helped inspire union leaders and activists across Europe and beyond by her example. Throughout this period the IFJ and EFJ have enjoyed particularly close co-operation in joint advocacy campaigns, training new leaders and building a strong and healthy association that can provide real service and protection to its members.
While news of Zhanna’s decision to step down shocks and saddens us, we reserve this moment to applaud and congratulate her for all she has contributed to our joint cause.
At the same time we can find tremendous comfort in the knowledge that Zhanna is being replaced by Andrei Bastunets, who has been at her side throughout the past two decades. As Zhanna’s Deputy, and the head of the BAJ legal department Andrei must also take credit for much of BAJ’s success. He has also gained and international reputation for his expertise, resolve and commitment to the protection of journalists.
There comes a time when every organisation must renew its leadership and we congratulate all those elected or re-elected to the positions of responsibility in BAJ. We remain confident that BAJ will continue to succeed, motivate and inspire its members and its sister unions across the world.
Jim Boumelha (IFJ President)
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård (EFJ President)
Beth Costa (IFJ General secretary)
Ricardo Gutiérrez (EFJ General Secretary)