Polish station launches broadcasts to Belarus

Radio Racja, a station based in the eastern Polish city of Bialystok, has resumed transmissions in Belarusian targeted at audiences across the border. It was initially launched in 1999 and suspended its operations in 2002 due to lack of funding. Run by the Belarusian minority in Poland, what are the broadcasters' goals today?

As before, Radio Racja is now addressing its program offer to Belarusians in Belarus and in Poland, as well as the Polish minority on the eastern side of the border. Oleg Latyszonek, the mastermind of the project, says the station wants to contribute to the exchange of experience between the neighbors.

"We would like to connect the Belarusian minority in Poland with their compatriots in Belarus. The radio would like to provide the citizens of Belarus with authentic and objective information on events in the country and the world. We hope to develop civic activity of Belarusians in Belarus, giving them the experience of the Belarusian minority in Poland."

Where will Radio Racja recruit its staff? Oleg Latyszonek.

"The people will be mostly from Belarus, because we would like to create a common radio station. We hope to reach a younger audience than, for example, Radio Liberty has. We have the experience of an FM station quite popular among people of any age, so I hope it will be a radio for every Belarusian."

Marcin Smialowski of Radio Polonia's Belarusian section stresses the importance of such stations as Radio Racja for the awakening of civic awareness among the people of Belarus. It must be remembered there is no independent radio or television in Belarus and the state controlled media present events exclusively in a manner favorable for the Lukashenko regime.

Oleg Latyszonek is optimistic about the expansion of Radio Racja's air time and program content. Does the station have plans to co-operate with other broadcasters, for example Radio Polonia?

"Of course, we have. We co-operated with these stations in the past and we have very good experience in that. We need such co-operation not only in Poland, but also with radio stations in Lithuania or Latvia."

A presidential election, or rather Lukashenko re-election campaign is just unfolding in Belarus. Is co-operation with Polish media beneficial? Marcin Smialowski.

"I think it is, because Polish journalists, they do know, they do understand what the Belarusian imagination is. They could relay to Belarusians such information that they understand, that they can touch with their minds and hearts."

Radio Racja can be heard on AM on 1080 kHz from the transmitter near Katowice in the south of Poland and on 105.5 MHz in the FM spectrum along the border with Belarus. Racja is also broadcasting on 103.8 FM from Lithuania. For the time being it is airing a single-hour-program daily in the Belarusian language with repeats. The station is funded from the Polish government budget, but hopes to acquire other sponsors soon.