So far, 20 Belarusian journalists and their family members have received help in Latvia, Sabine Sīle – Eglīte, the head of the Media Study Center of the Riga School of Economics, told LETA.
16 journalists have received assistance from the programs developed and implemented by the Media Studies Center of the Riga School of Economics. Sīle – Eglīte explained that with the deterioration of the situation in Belarus, when journalists, while fulfilling their duty to inform the public about what was happening in the country, were detained, beaten, humiliated and arrested for several days without food, the Riga Graduate School of Economics to the developed program and experience in cooperation with journalists, media from Belarus and the Belarusian press club.
Since September, the Media Studies Center of the Riga Graduate School of Economics has been implementing a support program for journalists who have suffered in Belarus. Depending on the needs of each, victims may be provided with medical assistance, rehabilitation services, an intensive course of personal guidance, temporary admission to a safe place, support from a psychotherapist or political asylum.
Sīle – Eglīte pointed out that the support program is continuing, but it is already visible that the need for support will increase, therefore the center is already looking for additional resources in cooperation with other non – governmental organizations (NGOs) to be ready to accommodate those in need.
“Every request for support is first considered by local NGOs and only with their recommendation is it further evaluated by us. The focus of NGOs in Latvia is to provide support in the most serious cases, ”explained Sīle – Eglīte.
She pointed out that journalists, like ship captains, feel enormous professional responsibility, so many of them choose to continue working despite repeated arrests, confiscation of equipment and personal injuries. However, for some, the unjust arrests and abuses by law enforcement agencies in Belarus have resulted in them being unable to sleep or work. The victims feel enormous anxiety and need help, even if only for a short time in a safe environment, the head of the Media Study Center of the Riga School of Economics emphasized.
Sīle – Eglīte pointed out that so far 11 journalists have participated in an intensive rehabilitation program after the self – isolation period set in the country and almost all have returned to work. A couple of them are not yet able to return for security reasons and are forced to temporarily find a home in Latvia. In addition, there are five other people who have returned home after a short respite in Latvia.
The head of the Media Study Center of the Riga School of Economics also pointed out that two journalists are arriving this week and one request is still being considered.
Sīle – Eglīte noted that in parallel the consultations of a doctor-psychotherapist are also provided in the amount of crisis intervention, but this support, like others, is based on the principle of voluntariness. The support includes logistics, accommodation and specialist support.
The head of the Media Studies Center of the Riga School of Economics noted that in addition to state support, volunteers from the Latvian Association of Journalists who have helped with food have also been involved in the process, as well as the centre’s team providing additional support in practical matters such as providing weather-appropriate clothing and accommodation. finding where to stay after the program, as well as finding job opportunities and attracting funding for a secure office and a Belarusian home. The current program, which is being implemented with state aid, is scheduled for the end of December.
Sīle – Eglīte drew attention to the fact that NGO partners in Lithuania have hosted a much larger number of victims and the center is discussing how and to what extent they can help and cooperate, as so far the largest flow of victims has been to Poland and Lithuania.