Western companies place commercials on Belarusian state television, thereby supporting the regime of horror of dictator Alexandr Lukashenko.

This is the accusation of the German-Swiss non-governmental organization Libereco, which campaigns for the protection of human rights in Belarus and Ukraine.

According to Libereco, in the third week of November, independent Belarusian observers evaluated the commercial breaks on the three state television channels Belarus 1, ONT and CTV.

Accordingly, six out of ten commercials came from companies in Western countries. Right at the front: Henkel. The Düsseldorf manufacturer of adhesives (Pattex), detergents (Persil) and shampoo (Gliss Kur) switched 47 spots in the evening programs that week. Only the American consumer goods giants Mars (61 spots) and Procter & Gamble (51) were more active. According to the information, every third commercial came from companies in EU countries, of which Germany had by far the largest share with half of all commercials. Two German companies can be found among the top ten western companies with the most advertising placements: Queisser Pharma from Flensburg (Doppelherz) and Dr. Theiss natural goods from Homburg (Allgäu mountain pine).

Marco Fieber, chairman of the German section of Libereco, was shocked in a statement that German companies continued to finance Lukashenko's TV station with advertising money, despite the numerous and well-documented human rights violations in Belarus.

Immediately before and after propagandistic news broadcasts and in the context of agitational hate speech programs, Henkel advertised laundry detergents.

And while the medical care of the more than 900 political prisoners in Belarus was completely inadequate, German pharmaceutical manufacturers were showing commercials for drugs.

“This morally extremely questionable advertising commitment must be stopped immediately,” demands Fieber.

Henkel rows back

Upon request, Henkel confirms that the company also sells and promotes products in Belarus that "play an important role in people's daily needs, such as cleaning or hygiene items".

For this purpose, commercials were also switched on the state radio.

Henkel has been active in Belarus since 2004 and employs around 100 people there.

The share of total sales is well below 1 percent.

"We take the criticism expressed at this practice very seriously and have adapted our local marketing activities against this background," said a spokesman on request.

This means that the marketing budget would be reallocated to other forms of advertising and channels.

"We have not booked any new advertising time on state television," Henkel rowed back when asked by the FAZ.

Dr.

Theiss Naturwaren controls the business in Belarus from a branch with around 50 employees.

With a budget of "well under" 500,000 euros, advertising is one of the smaller export expenditures.

For the current year, the company wants to adhere to existing agreements and contracts.

"The management reserves the right to carry out regular reviews and to reconsider the strategy for 2022," it said.

Broadcasters are the dictator's mouthpiece

The criticism of the behavior of Western companies in Belarus is not new.

As early as the summer, Libereco complained that western consumer goods manufacturers played a key role in financing Belarusian state television.

At the beginning of June it became clear to everyone that the broadcasters are a mouthpiece for Lukashenko.

At that time, the Belarusian journalist and activist Roman Protassevich was shown in a TV interview that was obviously under great pressure and forced to make a confession.

The state broadcaster ONT showed the young man with spots on his swollen face and wounds on his wrists.

On top of that.

The national sister broadcaster CTV broadcasts a program called “The Order of Judas” every Sunday evening, in which opposition members are vilified, insulted and threatened and shown in connection with a gallows rope.

After all, some companies have already reacted to the criticism and severely cut back their advertising in Belarus. The Swiss multi Nestlé was one of the busiest advertisers on state television in the summer. The food giant accounted for 9 percent of all commercials in July - in November it was only 0.4 percent, writes Libereco. Coca-Cola's advertising share fell from 4 to 0.2 percent over the same period. Recently, observers in Belarus have not discovered a single spot by Carlsberg and L'Oreal. The fact that more companies are not pulling the rip cord is likely to have something to do with the fear of Lukashenko's revenge: the dictator could withdraw their business license as a punishment.

Lars Bünger, President of Libereco Switzerland, welcomed the withdrawal of these companies.

At the same time he called on all western manufacturers to completely stop their advertising on Lukashenko's propaganda channels.

In collaboration with partner organizations abroad, Libereco now wants to seek talks with all relevant companies from the West and evaluate their reactions in January.

"We are also calling on the governments in Europe and the United States to put Belarusian state broadcasters on the sanctions list," Bünger told the FAZ. In such a case, Western companies would be completely prohibited from entering into (advertising) business with these broadcasters.

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