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About 500 human rights activists detained in Belarus within the last year

09.08.2021, 17:27
AFP/Sergei Gapon
AFP/Sergei Gapon

Within the last twelve months, the security forces in Belarus have detained about 500 media professionals, 29 of whom are imprisoned now. Thus, the regime of self-proclaimed President Lukashenko suppresses every independent reporting after the August 2020 presidential election. This is said in a report prepared by the international human rights organization “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF) together with the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)

“It has become extremely difficult for journalists to operate in Belarus in the past year in the face of the constantly escalating persecution, which has included censorship, fines, threats, arbitrary detention and even torture.

A month ago, on 8 and 9 July, the police carried out nearly 70 raids on media outlets and journalists’ homes, arresting at least 15 of the journalists, including four who are now being prosecuted on terrorism charges. These figures are just one instance of what the independent media have endured during the past year of harassment, which has also had no precedent since Belarus became independent in 1991. The report by RSF and the OMCT describes the system of repression that has been imposed with the aim of silencing journalists”, the report said.

“A free and independent press, the pillar of democracy, is Alexander Lukashenko’s main enemy in his desire to submit the Belarusian people to his authority,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Journalists battling to inform their fellow citizens and the rest of the world about events in Belarus have been hounded for the past year, as have their families, and have been subjected to relentless physical, psychological, judicial and economic persecution. The report published by RSF and the OMCT describes the unprecedented determination displayed by the authorities in their drive to eradicate all independent media. RSF calls on the international community to make every effort to stop this persecution at Europe’s gates and to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

The report said also that the regime has tightened media laws, by means of which the government was taking action against organizations and independent media holdings: the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), which has long been a partner of the RSF in Belarus, is facing now liquidation and trial that is to start on August 11. Employees of the Belarusian Press Club are in prison or have fled abroad. Then, the largest independent news site, was first stripped of its media status and then blocked in Belarus.

In addition, the report mentioned the case of Raman Pratasevich, for whose arrest a passenger plane was forcibly landed. Pratasevich's condition indicated that he had been tortured. The RSF and six other organizations have asked the United Nations to formally declare Protasevich's arrest illegal. Two days after the abduction, the RSF filed a criminal case against Lukashenko in Lithuania, in accordance with the principle of common law. The Lithuanian Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation.

The RSF and OMCT report call for a comprehensive and independent investigation into crimes against journalists in Belarus. 

It will be recalled that Belarus ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the ranking of press freedom, due to unprecedented crackdown on journalists and the free press.

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