Bell's Belarus: Never Mind Its Human Rights Record

With help from British public relations guru Lord Timothy Bell and his firm, Bell Pottinger, the country of Belarus -- where "opposition protests are regularly crushed with overwhelming force by riot police" and the domestic spy agency is still called the KGB -- is getting an image make-over. Belarus' government "now has a new English-language website for prospective investors, Western journalists are being jetted to Belarus," and the government spent a million dollars on tourism advertising in 2008, with plans to double that next year. Belarus also plans "to set up information centres in Paris and Berlin, as well as Lithuania and Poland," according to a tourism official. Belarus' authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, even released some political prisoners this year, in a bid "to improve relations with the European Union." Last year, the United Nations rejected Belarus' bid to join its Human Rights Council.