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October 14, 2008
Last Wednesday Lord Andrew McIntosh at the House of Lords invited a group of journalists from Belarus to give a talk about the deteriorating conditions of media freedom in Belarus. Half way through the conference, an old granny of about 80 walked into the chamber, wrapped up all in black with a Miss Marple – styled hat fashioned on top of her head and her face barely visible from behind her thick glasses. People exchanged glances and made an effort to ignore this odd appearance.
However, when the time came for questions, the granny was the first one to shoot her hand up in the air. She stood up propping herself on the desk, cleared her throat and gave an elaborate speech ending with a question ”...perhaps Belarus will cease to exist altogether?” She spoke of human rights abuses, of censorship, of tyranny and Lukashenko’s pride at being “the last remaining dictatorship in Europe”.
I felt like the whole chamber has just leapt a giant step into the future, where 80 year old people don’t sit at home knitting, but attend public talks and gatherings and fight for their causes; where agism is non-existent and the whole nation is so old that the young people no longer have the time to campaign and protest. But it was a good feeling, an out-of-this-world experience and a very curious sneak-peek into the future.