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5 Years in Prison for Satirical Flash Films About the President of Belarus

They do not allow the criticism of the president in any kind, whether it would be an animated file, a joke, the poster or the broadcast. So they believe in Minsk and don't understand humour.

For the first time in the world, they threaten creators of flash with 5 years in prison if authorities prove that hero of films and the president of Belarus is the same person. Public Prosecutor has brought criminal case on the fact of distribution on the Internet site: cartoon films (translated to the English too), discrediting honor of the president of Belarus.

The animated films are small plots of satirical character which main hero looks like Alexander Lukashenka. The criminal code provides punishment for a similar crime (slander concerning the president of Belarus) up to 5 years' imprisonment.

Site Multclub became popular the last year after a referendum in Belarus. The majority of citizens on the official information supported Lukashenka granting him of an opportunity to take part in presidents' elections once again. This site offered rather severe flash cartoons. Their authors directly accused the head of the state in every possible sins - from a trickery of voters until stealing of state capital and a genocide of own people.

They called hero in cartoons Batka. Here he lays on the money stolen at citizens as devil, here he commands to break up demonstration, here he looks at a brotherly cemetery into which Belarus has turned, here he forges results of a referendum and cooks false attempt at own life and so on. Though it is written on main page of a site, that "coincidence of working characters of a flash serial to real persons is casual coincidence", all this in situation of modern Belarus looks rather fearlessly.

The most ridiculous in cartoon films are citations. The citations taken from official sources like the state TV. Here, for example the description of a plot of one of flash begins with the known citation made by Lukashenka:

- In the storming sea, there is quiet Small Island...

So once Lukashenka explained where Belarus is situated. Among waves and ships, there's island with outlines of Belarus. Here sounds the Song Island of bad luck. On perimeter of island, there's a barbed wire and watchtowers, in the middle of island - the big monument - Alexander Lukashenka on the cow.

Moreover, on the fence from a barbed wire there're posters with Lukashenka's citations:

- We are in an enemy environment as in 1941.

- I will not lead the state to the civilized world.

- The monstrous monster, the NATO, has crept to our blue-eyed Belarus

- It is not for us the Europe. The West is not ours!

- All have fallen upon us, in the West and in Russia not because we make something wrong. Because of envy?

On this background, inhabitants drag bamboo stretcher with hero in a loincloth to a hut with inscription Presidency.

Don't think, that 28 series flash serial is devoted only to one hero. These are animated cartoons about the country and a life. - The most ridiculous in our films is a life in Belarus, - the coordinator of the project Paul Morozov speaks.

Authors of this site are members of youth movement The Third Way, which idea is more freedom and less Lukashenka. Members are mostly students. They claim, that members of virtual community which names they do not know created this cartoon films.

- We were in touch with authors only by e-mail. I found the first flash on the Internet, contacted the author and offered our technical support. Besides, people leave the wishes and ideas visiting a forum of our site. Actually all scripts are thought out with people. They are ridiculous but who take offence on clowns? In middle Ages, they were especially at court!

Last days they interrogated the manager of a site Andrey Obuzov and the coordinator of the project Paul Morozov. KGB made a search in their apartments. 12 items of PC equipment and tens disks and papers are withdrawn.

The representative of OSCE recently emphasized, that Belarus is unique country where they sentence citizens to imprisonment for slander of the president. For last year, two have been condemned under similar clause. One of them is still not free.

All over the world have popularity cartoons on political themes, but no one country start criminal case against their authors. American brothers, cartoon's authors about Bush and Kerry at which laughed all America, stated that their site have overtaken all mass media on popularity. Nevertheless, heroes of flash have not counted themselves offended.

The coordinator of the project Morozov told that for a long time felt steadfast attention of special services. - When some times per diem you see the same persons and the cars at various times and in different places, it is not without purpose.

According to authors, at the Belarus forums it is possible to find so much discrediting honor of the Belarus president, that their animation is simply harmless.

Audience of site Multclub has increased until 50 thousand visitors per day. For two days after scandal, popularity of a site has grown in 55 times. Struggle against animated cartoons has turned back their free-of-charge advertising. Founders of a site are even grateful to authorities for this.

Many other websites are showing scandal flash films now. In case, authorities will block Multclub. The Russian TV channels twisted with pleasure in news fragments from cartoon films.

Michael Garmahis (27) is journalist working in one of the Belarusian newspaper. Some time was engaged in NGO's social work and also worked as a tutor of German and English in college.

For further information, please visit his web site: (Michael Garmahis-My stories, jokes, drawings, photos, links from Belarus)

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