On Tuesday afternoon Sweden revealed the eight countries that will help judge Melodifestivalen — its Eurovision 2021 national final. But by Tuesday evening producers had revealed that they were dropping Belarus from the mix.
In a statement sent through its Melodifestivalen account, the broadcaster said:
“Due to the current situation in Belarus, Melodifestivalen has decided to replace Belarus as a jury group in the final. Instead, the UK will participate as one of the eight jury groups.”
Karin Gunnarsson, competition producer for Melodifestivalen, added that it had been “the wrong decision” to select Belarus as part of the international jury in the first place.
She said: “The situation for free media is very serious in the country. We have therefore chosen to replace the jury group from Belarus with a jury group from the UK.”
Due to the current situation in Belarus, Melodifestivalen has decided to replace Belarus as a jury group in the final. Instead, the UK will participate as one of the eight jury groups. https://t.co/7a6au7brW0
— Melodifestivalen (en) (@melfest_en) March 9, 2021
The international juries make up 50% of the overall score. The other 50% comes from the televote. In the event of a tie, the people’s vote decides the winner.
Why has Sweden removed Belarus’ jury now?
Sweden cites the “current situation” and a lack of media freedom. This clearly refers to the ongoing crackdown of peaceful demonstrators who continue to speak out against police brutality and President Alexander Lukashenko. You’ll remember that he was re-elected in elections that have been widely condemned by the international community, including by the European Union.
Since October 2020, the EU has progressively imposed restrictions on Belarus and levelled sanctions against people it says are “responsible for repression and intimidation” against protestors.
The Council of the European Union says: “The measures were adopted in response to the Belarusian authorities’ unacceptable violence against peaceful protesters, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions, following the August 2020 presidential elections.”
“The EU does not recognise results of the Belarus elections, condemning them as neither free, nor fair.”
Today’s announcement from Sweden came just hours after Belarus’ state-run broadcaster revealed its controversial and divisive Eurovision 2021 entry.