The European Olympic Committees will this week name the representative earmarked to monitor press freedom during the Minsk 2019 European Games – but its President, Janez Kocijančič, has faith that Belarus will honour the stipulations that are part of the host city contract.
On May 8, in response to concerns raised by Human Rights Watch and other groups regarding press liberty and treatment in Belarus, the EOC said it would appoint a representative to check on any complaints during the Games.
That has been done – but Kocijančič told insidethegames after today’s EOC Executive Meeting here that he thought his organisation’s partners would “keep their word".
This week Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, responded to the EOC initiative by saying: “It’s good news that the EOC has committed to dealing with interference with press freedoms, but it needs to follow up with effective action.”
Kocijančič responded: “We have a policy of total respect of human rights and total respect for press freedom.
“It is also a part of our host city contract for every event we are organising – and for this year we are organising four events.
“We were asked by some people to make a special system, hotline and so on, but that is from our point of view something we don’t like.
“We would like to have a normal collaboration.
“We will name a person who will have the task of being available full-time if something goes wrong.
“But we do not expect that anything will go wrong, because we think that our partners will keep their word and the stipulations of the host city contracts.
“If you arrange a hotline it will be a message to the organiser that you suspect they will do something wrong.
“We do not suspect.
“But we have in place a mechanism that if anything goes wrong we will be immediately informed and we will do our part of the job.
“They will be the link.
“I do not expect any major problems, but if anything will happen this person will be the contact, available all the time, and they would speak with the leadership of the European Olympic Committees to see what could be done.
“Our partners in every case will be a media specialist.
“We will tell you in a few days – we know exactly who we will choose.
“I had a meeting with the human rights organisation and we had very correct discussions because they are dedicated to human rights issues, and while we are organising a sports event we believe human rights are universal and we all should take care about them.
“So we had good understanding.”