In 2018–2019, the Belarusian PEN developed a unique methodology of collecting and summarizing information concerning the Belarusian sphere of culture and launched a systematic long-term monitoring. The motivation for this work was the desire to fill the informational gap about cultural rights in Belarus. The socio-political crisis which began in the country in 2020 significantly influenced the content of the monitoring. Numerous violations of human rights of cultural workers and organizations called for a response and the monitoring of the Belarusian PEN took the challenge of the external environment by not only touching on cultural rights in the conventional sense, but also records the human rights violations against cultural workers and organizations.
The main tasks of the Belarusian PEN monitoring can be described as follows: to record facts and outline the ongoing trends; to present a public annual report on the implementation of cultural and human rights in relation to cultural workers; to provide practical assistance in realization and restoration of violated rights on the basis of the collected information and in cooperation with other associations and cultural workers; to participate in the formation of cultural policy (both under normal democratic circumstances and under crisis conditions).
Our monitoring covers the whole territory of Belarus and is focused on cultural figures of various areas. Initially the focus of the Belarusian PEN had been on literary figures only, but later our organization decided to supervise a notably wider range of cultural figures: photographers, musicians, designers, actors, artists, etc. Our information is collected through the analysis of public sources of information of national and regional importance; state and non-state mass media (at different times, within 15 different media); communication with creative associations and initiatives throughout Belarus (around 20 partner contacts); direct interaction with cultural figures; communication with Belarusian human rights organizations; personal appeals and active monitoring (in cases of trials against cultural figures); analysis of social networks and Telegram channels of professional and regional communities (around 15 of them at once).
The methodology of collecting and compiling data over longer periods provides up-to-date information on violations for the use of the Belarusian PEN or upon request of interested parties. The main public document of our long-term monitoring is the annual report on the implementation of cultural rights and human rights violations against cultural workers. Additionally, the Belarusian PEN publishes a review on the topic once every three months.
The results of the monitoring activities of the Belarusian PEN are public and used by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus, the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, human rights defenders, politicians, researchers and the concerned public. The main force of the reports is in the system of the International PEN and its country offices – it is an important part of international relations, which is based on common values and common organizational culture, built upon the defense of cultural rights, which are inseparably connected with human rights.