BELARUS – The state broadcaster of Belarus claims the organisers of the annual Eurovision Song Contest bowed to anti-government activists and an online hate campaign when booting the country from the competition, due to be held in May.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which oversees the long-running event, ruled earlier this month that the initial entry by Belarusian band Galasy ZMesta undermined “the non-political nature” of Eurovision and risked damaging its reputation.
The song ‘Ya nauchu tebya’ (I’ll Teach You) was widely seen as mocking the protesters who claim that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko rigged last year’s election to secure a sixth term in office, and are demanding his resignation. Several large-scale anti-government rallies have been held, some of which have ended in clashes with police. Lukashenko claims the protests were incited from abroad.
The song’s chorus features the lyrics: “I’ll teach you to dance to the tune / I’ll teach you to take the bait / I’ll teach you to toe the line.”
The band’s YouTube channel has one song that mocks Lukashenko’s main opponent in the previous presidential race, protest leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who now resides in Lithuania, and another song that mocksthe EU.
Galasy ZMesta frontman Dmitry Butakov told Current Time TV, a cut out of US state-run broadcaster RFE/RL, that the band members are “completely apolitical” and their lyrics were merely ironic. He added that the band has songs that poke fun at the government as well, but declined to provide examples.
Following the backlash, Belarus submitted a different song by the same band. The EBU promptly rejected it on Friday evening, ruling that “it was also in breach of the rules of the competition that ensure the Contest is not instrumentalized or brought into disrepute.” The statement said that Belarus has failed to meet the deadline for another submission, which means that the country was effectively booted from the competition.
The new track is about a gullible rabbit that gets eaten by a fox, and about various farm animals, each of which “has only one dream – to end up on a dinner table before others.”
Ivan Eismont, the head of Belarus’ state TV and radio broadcaster BTRC, which was responsible for choosing the entry, slammed the disqualification as politically motivated. He said the EBU was “pressured by politicians and haters on social media.”
Eismont added that anti-government activists were waging an online campaign against the country’s entry. “Galasy ZMesta have made history and, in my opinion, Belarus has won this Eurovision!” he said. BTRC earlier said in a news report that the organizers failed to clarify which verses they found to be political.
Butakov told RIA Novosti that by rejecting both songs, the EBU has shown “blatant double standards.”
“I find it weird that [they] were so afraid [of the songs],” Butakov said, adding the band was more interested in raising its name recognition rather than winning the contest.