Belarus: Open Letter to Nestle

Belarus: Open Letter to Nestle

Jun 28, 2021

People in Need is among 52 organizations from 18 countries that call on the Nestle company to withdraw its advertising from Belarusian state TV and stop financing Lukashenka's dictatorial regime. Since the summer of 2020, more than 40,000 people have been arrested in Belarus for political reasons, and thousands of them have been tortured or ill-treated. Several opponents of the regime have reportedly been killed. All these human rights violations are ignored by the Belarusian state media, which are co-financed by Nestlé's advertising.

Zurich, 24.06.2021

Open letter to Paul Bulcke, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nestlé and Mark Schneider, Chief Executive Officer of Nestlé

Dear Mr Bulcke, Dear Mr Schneider

We are writing to you today on behalf of 52 non-governmental organisations from 18 countries about Nestlé's advertising on Belarusian state television. Through your advertising, Nestlé directly finances the state propaganda of the dictatorial regime in Belarus and the associated discrediting of the Belarusian democracy movement. 

Since the summer of 2020, more than 40,000 people have been arrested in Belarus for political reasons, and thousands of them have been tortured or ill-treated. Several opponents of the regime have reportedly been killed. Belarusian human rights organisations have currently recognised more than 500 detainees as political prisoners. All these human rights violations are ignored by the Belarusian state media, which are co-financed by Nestlé's advertising.

In an unprecedented act of state terrorism, on 23 May 2021 the Belarusian regime hijacked an Irish airline Ryanair plane en route from Greece to Lithuania in Belarusian airspace. When the plane was forced to land in Minsk, Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega were arrested - both have since been designated political prisoners of the Belarusian regime by Belarusian and international human rights organisations.

Subsequently, the forced confessions of guilt and interviews by Pratasevich and Sapega were broadcast on Belarusian state television. In the case of Raman Pratasevich, traces of physical abuse were clearly visible.

Nestlé places advertisements for its coffee, chocolate bars and cat food alongside this terrifying display of frightened and abused opponents of the regime. Monitoring of advertising on Belarusian state television has shown that one in three commercials are from Nestlé.

As early as November 2020, the political prisoner Mikalai Dziadok was shown on Belarusian state television and forced to make a confession of guilt under visible torture. Numerous other opponents of the regime are regularly forced to confess their guilt on Belarusian state television.

Nestlé places advertisements for its coffee, chocolate bars and cat food alongside this terrifying display of frightened and abused opponents of the regime. Monitoring of advertising on Belarusian state television has shown that one in three commercials are from Nestlé. No other Western company finances the inhuman propaganda on Belarusian state television more than Nestlé.

The situation of media freedom in Belarus has been alarming for many years. In the Reporters Without Borders press freedom ranking, Belarus is ranked 158 out of 180 countries. On 18 May 2021, the most popular independent Belarusian website TUT.BY was shut down. According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), 25 media workers are currently imprisoned, including 12 TUT.BY staff and 5 Press Club Belarus staff.

In response to the ongoing repression of media freedom and due to the lack of protection of independent journalism in Belarus, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an association of 69 broadcasters from 56 countries, suspended the membership of Belarusian broadcaster BTRC on 28 May 2021.

We call on you to immediately stop Nestlé's advertising in all state-controlled Belarusian media and the direct financing of the propaganda of a criminal regime that this entails.

We strongly welcome the EBU's decision and we expect Nestlé to do similar, and distance itself from the Belarusian regime. Nestlé must no longer be complicit in the crimes of the Lukashenko regime and the grave human rights violations in Belarus by financing Belarusian state television through advertising.

We call on you to immediately stop Nestlé's advertising in all state-controlled Belarusian media and the direct financing of the propaganda of a criminal regime that this entails.

Yours sincerely

Signing organisation and country:

ACAT Belgium, Belgium

ACAT Germany, Germany

ACAT Italy, Italy

ACAT Switzerland, Switzerland

Association UMDPl, Ukraine

Belarusische Gemeinschaft RAZAM e.V., Germany

Campax, Switzerland

Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine

Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia

Citizens' Watch, Russia

Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Norddeutschland, Germany

Evangelisch-Lutherischer Kirchenkreis Nordfriesland, Germany

Evangelische Stimmen, Nordkirche, Germany

Flussschifferkirche Hamburg, Germany

Free Press Unlimited, Netherlands

Freedom House, USA

Helsinki Citizens' Assembly - Vanadzor, Armenia

Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland

Human Rights Center Viasna, Belarus

Human Rights House Foundation, Norway

Human Rights Movement "Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan", Kyrgyzstan

humanrights.ch, Switzerland

Index on Censorship, United Kingdom

Initiative Mittel- und Osteuropa e.V., Germany

International Partnership for Human RIghts, Belgium

Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte (IGFM), Germany

Kazakhstan International Bureau on Human Rights and the Rule of Law, Kazakhstan

Kharkiv Human Protection Group, Ukraine

Kommunikation Ost-West, Switzerland

KRF Public Alternative, Ukraine

Legal Initiative, Belarus

Legal policy research centre, Kazakhstan

Libereco - Partnership for Human Rights, Switzerland /Germany

Menschenrechtszentrum Cottbus, Germany

National Anti-Crisis Management of Belarus, Poland

NESEHNUTÍ, Czech Republic

Östgruppen - Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, Sweden

Pädagogisch-Theologisches Institut der Nordkirche, Germany

Pastoralkolleg Ratzeburg der Nordkirche, Germany

People in Need, Czech Republic

People's Embassy of Belarus in Germany, Germany

Prediger- und Studienseminar der Nordkirche, Germany

Public Association "Dignity", Kazakhstan

Public Verdict Foundation, Russia

RAZAM.CH Switzerland

Reporters Without Borders Switzerland / Germany

Swedish OSCE Network, Sweden

Swiss Helsinki Committee, Switzerland

The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House Lithuania / Belarus

The Netherlands Helsinki Committee, Netherlands

Union "Women of the Don", Russia

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Germany

Author: Coalition of Organizations