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Belarusian journalists called on to stop persecution and reprisals

12.05.2021, 17:15
AFP/Sergei Gapon
AFP/Sergei Gapon

Belarusian media have called on the authorities to stop the criminal prosecution of journalists, to release their colleagues from prisons, to resume printing of non-state mass media and to allow access to websites, and to stop government interference in mass media work. This is said in the appeal of journalists, published on the website of the Belarusian Association of Journalists.

The appeal cited many examples of pressure the government is making on mass media. In particular, the warning to the regional newspaper Intex-press for publishing an interview with Svitlana Tikhanovska. "At the same time, Belposhta refused to include the newspaper in the subscription catalog, and Belsoyuzpechat refused to sell it through kiosks," the statement said.

In addition, Narodnaya Volya, BelGazeta, Free News Plus, Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus, Novy Chas, Gazeta Slonimskaya, and Brestskaya Gazeta faced some problems with printing and distribution.

“Most of them stopped being printed and went online. But even there, freedom of speech is strictly limited, ”the appeal reads. 

The TUT.BY portal was deprived of the status of online media. Authorities have blocked access to most independent online resources, harassing bloggers, administrators of YouTube and Telegram channels, local chats and commentators on social media.

The authors of the appeal claimed that the pressure on journalists was increased. It is reported that last year alone, about 500 detentions and 100 arrests were recorded. Today, 11 journalists are behind bars in criminal cases. Three of them, Kateryna Andreeva (Bakhvalova), Daria Chultsova and Kateryna Borysevych, have already been sentenced to imprisonment for journalistic work.

The authors of the appeal also criticized the latest changes in the legislation regarding mass media: “The authorities are trying to turn journalism to the service sector. The state-run media are increasingly using harsh hate speech, accusing people of all crimes of failing to defend themselves, and spreading false propaganda under the guise of information, including pro-Russian ones. ”

"We, the media, are calling on the authorities to stop the witch hunt." The right to express one's personal opinion is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and in numerous international documents signed by our state, ” as the appeal reads.

As IMI reported, on April 21, the Belarusian parliament passed a number of amendments to the legislation that significantly restrict the work of the media.

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