The Great Teddy Bear Drop for Free Speech in Belarus

Image via Adweek

Studio Total, a Swedish PR agency, has focused the world’s attention on the need for change in Belarus after it pulled off a rebellious pro-democracy action by flying into Minsk and sending teddy bears holding free-speech signs floating down in parachutes, according to Adweek.

Studio Total flew its own plane, illegally, into Belarus airspace for its “mission”, which was born out of personal outrage on the part of agency executives. They had learned about human-rights abuses and limits on free speech in the former Soviet republic, and decided they could use their attention-getting PR tactics to draw attention to the problems there. The teddy bears were dropped on July 4.

Soon after, a Minsk real-estate agent was arrested for allegedly renting an apartment to Studio Total workers. Then, on July 13, journalist Anton Surapin was arrested by the KGB after he was the first to publish photos of the teddy-bear drop online. He remains in custody on suspicion of helping foreigners enter Belarus illegally, and could face three to five years in prison.

Reporters Without Borders, a French-based international non-governmental organization that advocates freedom of the press and freedom of information, has called for the immediate release of Surapin. The stunt by the Swedish advertising agency Studio Total must not be used by the Belarusian authorities as a pretext for arresting journalists, bloggers or members of the public who simply relayed information about it, Reporters Without Borders said.

View a video of the Free Speech video after the jump…

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