Joint statement June 24, 2021
Nestlé Must Immediately Stop Funding State Media in Belarus
Freedom House joined 51 other NGOs in signing an open letter calling on Nestlé to stop financing the TV propaganda of the Belarus regime.
Open letter to:
Paul Bulcke, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nestlé
Mark Schneider, Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé
Dear Mr. Bulcke, Dear Mr. Schneider,
We are writing to you today on behalf of 52 non-governmental organizations from 18 countries about Nestlé's advertising on Belarusian state television. Through your advertising, Nestlé directly finances the state propaganda of the dictatorial regime in Belarus and the associated discrediting of the Belarusian democracy movement.
Since the summer of 2020, more than 40,000 people have been arrested in Belarus for political reasons, and thousands of them have been tortured or ill-treated. Several opponents of the regime have reportedly been killed. Belarusian human rights organizations have currently recognized more than 500 detainees as political prisoners. All these human rights violations are ignored by the Belarusian state media, which are co-financed by Nestlé's advertising.
In an unprecedented act of state terrorism, on 23 May 2021, the Belarusian regime hijacked an Irish airline Ryanair plane en route from Greece to Lithuania in Belarusian airspace. When the plane was forced to land in Minsk, Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested - both have since been designated political prisoners of the Belarusian regime by Belarusian and international human rights organizations.
Subsequently, the forced confessions of guilt and interviews by Pratasevich and Sapega were broadcast on Belarusian state television. In the case of Raman Pratasevich, traces of physical abuse were clearly visible.
As early as November 2020, the political prisoner Mikalai Dziadok was shown on Belarusian state television and forced to make a confession of guilt under visible torture. Numerous other opponents of the regime are regularly forced to confess their guilt on Belarusian state television.
Nestlé places advertisements for its coffee, chocolate bars, and cat food alongside this terrifying display of frightened and abused opponents of the regime. Monitoring of advertising on Belarusian state television has shown that one in three commercials are from Nestlé. No other Western company finances the inhuman propaganda on Belarusian state television more than Nestlé.
The situation of media freedom in Belarus has been alarming for many years. In the Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, Belarus is ranked 158 out of 180 countries. On 18 May 2021, the most popular independent Belarusian website TUT.BY was shut down. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), 25 media workers are currently imprisoned, including 12 TUT.BY staff and 5 Press Club Belarus staff.
In response to the ongoing repression of media freedom and due to the lack of protection of independent journalism in Belarus, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an association of 69 broadcasters from 56 countries, suspended the membership of Belarusian broadcaster BTRC on 28 May 2021.
We strongly welcome the EBU's decision and we expect Nestlé to do something similar, and distance itself from the Belarusian regime. Nestlé must no longer be complicit in the crimes of the Lukashenko regime and the grave human rights violations in Belarus by financing Belarusian state television through advertising.
We call on you to immediately stop Nestlé's advertising in all state-controlled Belarusian media and the direct financing of the propaganda of a criminal regime that this entails.
Association UMDPl (Ukraine)
Belarusische Gemeinschaft RAZAM e.V. (Germany)
Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
Citizens' Watch (Russia)
Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Norddeutschland (Germany)
Evangelisch-Lutherischer Kirchenkreis Nordfriesland (Germany)
Evangelische Stimmen, Nordkirche (Germany)
Flussschifferkirche Hamburg (Germany)
Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands)
Freedom House (USA)
Helsinki Citizens' Assembly - Vanadzor (Armenia)
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
Human Rights Center Viasna (Belarus)
Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
Human Rights Movement "Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan" (Kyrgyzstan)
Index on Censorship (United Kingdom)
Initiative Mittel- und Osteuropa e.V. (Germany)
International Partnership for Human RIghts (Belgium)
Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte (IGFM) (Germany)
Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law (Kazakhstan)
Kharkiv Human Protection Group (Ukraine)
Kommunikation Ost-West (Switzerland)
KRF Public Alternative (Ukraine)
Legal Initiative (Belarus)
Legal policy research centre (Kazakhstan)
Libereco - Partnership for Human Rights (Switzerland/Germany)
Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus (Germany)
National Anti-Crisis Management of Belarus (Poland)
NESEHNUTÍ (Czech Republic)
Östgruppen - Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (Schweden)
Pädagogisch-Theologisches Institut der Nordkirche (Germany)
Pastoralkolleg Ratzeburg der Nordkirche (Germany)
People in Need (Czech Republic)
People's Embassy of Belarus in Germany (Germany)
Prediger- und Studienseminar der Nordkirche (Germany)
Public Association "Dignity" (Kazakhstan)
Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
Reporters Without Borders (Switzerland/Germany)
Swedish OSCE Network (Sweden)
Swiss Helsinki Committee (Switzerland)
The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (Lithuania/Belarus)
The Netherlands Helsinki Committee (Netherlands)
Union "Women of the Don" (Russia)
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Germany)
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