Minsk, March 19, 1997

This statement concerns the content of a news report shown in Belarusian Televisionís evening news bulletin on March 17.

In his comments regarding the arrest of the Belarusian Soros Foundationís executive director Peter Byrne at Minsk-2 airport, the Belarusian Television correspondent conveyed a distorted version of certain facts about the Foundationís activities. The names of people who are famous in Belarus were mentioned, as were sums of money they were alleged to have received personally for being in favour with Mr.†Byrne.

In this regard, we would like to provide necessary explanations for the respected writers of that report and those viewers who believe what is proclaimed on their television screens.

The decisions to award the majority of the grants mentioned were made before Peter Byrne even became head of the Belarusian Soros Foundation. Furthermore, matters of whether the Foundation supports projects are not decided on by the executive director, but by the Foundationís highest authority - its Advisory Board (previously known as the Board). The Advisory Board is made up exclusively of Belarusian citizens.

None of the people singled out in the report received personal financial support from the Foundation. The grants were allocated to the organisations those people represent (for instance the Belarusian Academy of Scienceís museum of ancient Belarusian culture, the Belarusian Civil Society Organisations archive centre, and the Anti-Fascist Centre), mostly in the form of equipment. At this point, it is important to stress that equipment supplied for the implementation of projects always remains the property of the Foundation. A legal contract concerning the use of grants is signed between the Belarusian Soros Foundation and every grant recipient. This requires the regular submission of reports on how the grant is being put to use.

To say the least, it was also strange that only "opposition" grant recipients were selected from out of the 4000 organisations and individuals which the Foundation has supported throughout the time it has been in existence. Incidentally, these include numerous people who are extremely loyal to the authorities in power, and even representatives of the authorities. For some reason, these people were not named in the television commentaries. Belarusian Television also "forgot" about the lives which have been saved thanks to the Belarusian Soros Foundationís medical projects; the gifted Belarusian children who have gained an opportunity to develop their talents with the help of the Foundation; the special Chernobyl program; the program supporting the Belarusian National Library and other libraries around the republic; and much, much more.

Since we are genuinely concerned about Belarusian Televisionís reputation as one of the main sources of information in the country, we are always ready to provide any details of how and to whom grants are allocated by the Belarusian Soros Foundation.

The Belarusian Soros Foundationís
Information and Public Relations Department

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