TV Belsat broadcasts into Belarusia and is sponsored by the Pollish government which has just cut the channel's budget by 47 percent with the founder and director dismissed for protesting against the cuts.


Fuzzy picture as Poland cuts funding to pro-Belarusian opposition TV channel


The Polish Government-controlled TVP has fired the head of the TV Belsat channel broadcasting in Russian and Belarusian and reduced funding for it by half in a single move.

That decision, taken on March 12, will likely be seen as a sign the country is open to some form of dialogue with Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime, many feel.

TV Belsat is part of TVP and has been broadcasting since 2007, funded mostly from Polish foreign ministry funds.

It is a source of news for Belarusians, transmitted in their languages with content regarded as independent of the Lukashenko regime in Minsk. It was important in relaying the events during the protests that followed the apparently rigged presidential election that led to mass protests in Belarus in 2020.

Lukashenko himself had said, before Poland’s autumn 2023 parliamentary elections, he hoped his country’s relations with Poland might improve if Donald Tusk came to power.

The Tusk regime, since he returned as Prime Minister, has regularly voiced disapproval of TV Belsat for its perceived support of the Belarusian opposition.

In 2017, the then-Conservative (PiS) government had proposed to cut funding for TV Belsat during a period when Poland was hoping to nudge Belarus and its leader away from Russia. The government eventually retreated from reducing TV Belsat’s funding once it became clear it could not persuade Lukashenko to shift his position.

Poland has, in the past, attempted to encourage Lukashenko to make himself and his country more independent of Russia but – since the 2020 elections – the Belarusian Government has taken action against the Polish minority, incarcerating some of its activists.

It has, reportedly, also facilitated a wave of illegal migration across the Polish border into the European Union and, in 2022, became one of the few countries globally that backed the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Following a decision by the present Polish Government’s foreign ministry to cut funding for TV Belsat by 47 per cent, the State-controlled TVP has dismissed Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy, the founder and now former head of the channel.

Romaszewska-Guzy recently revealed on her social media account that she had declined what was described as a financially attractive offer to “go quietly”.

She chose instead to protest against the ministry of foreign affairs’ decision, following which she was dismissed by TVP’s liquidator.

The outgoing head of TV Belsat said she had been dismissed for failing to follow TVP’s instructions on adjusting to the reduction of funding for her channel. She insisted that she had not been issued any such instructions and would, therefore, be challenging the decision to dismiss her in the courts.

TVP as a whole is in the process of liquidation, a measure taken by the Tusk-led Government to “legalise” its takeover of public media. Liquidation was decided upon once it became clear that no court would register new management appointed in violation of Polish public-media law.

Romaszewska-Guzy claimed the Government is planning to “partition” TV Belsat and that Russian-language broadcasts are, in future, to be handled by the current English-language channel TVP World – which has seen its funding grow this year.

She said she believes that is a grave mistake as it turns the service upside down, one which has been developed over a number of years “serving Poland as a channel oriented towards the East in the current difficult and dangerous international situation”.

Romaszewska-Guzy added: “The wrecking of such a unique and only TVP channel that had been formed from below [to inform Belarus] was a serious error as it had helped Poland project soft power in the East.” It was not just for Belarus but for the whole of the region of the former USSR, she said.

She also reminded onlookers that several TV Belsat staff and associates had been imprisoned by the Lukashenko Government and added that TVP and the Polish foreign affairs ministry were effectively letting such people down by slashing the funding for the channel.

Asked by news portal whether her dismissal was political, Romaszewska-Guzy said her right-leaning political views had never affected the output of TV Belsat nor the way it was managed.

She added that she had been working for TVP for decades before the arrival of the previous PiS government.