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Six countries condemned crackdown on free speech in Belarus

25.09.2020, 12:59
Photo credit: Belsat
Photo credit: Belsat

The constant attacks on journalists and other oppressions of freedom of speech in Belarus are a matter of deep concern to the international community.

This is said in a statement issued on September 24 by the executive group of the Media Freedom Coalition, which includes Canada, Germany, Latvia, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as Ukrinform reported.

"The signatories are concerned about the prolonged attacks on freedom of speech around the August 9 presidential election in Belarus. Freedom of the media is an important component of democracies and is necessary to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms," the statement said.

The signatories are concerned about "reliable information that the Belarusian authorities persecuted, severely beat, detained and deprived of accreditation journalists and other media professionals who covered the election campaign and protests." "Obviously, these repressions are directed specifically against journalists to deprive the Belarusian people of the right to freedom of thought and expression," the document read.

The statement also drew attention to the inadmissibility of switching off the Internet, "which restricts media freedom and prevents journalists and human rights activists from reporting on human rights violations." 

“Blackouts affect all users, disproportionately harming women, girls and minorities, and can violate human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of thought, expression and association, which form the basis of democratic societies. People need access to free media to obtain accurate information and analysis that keeps the government accountable, ” the signatories said.

In view of this, the Belarusian authorities are urged to "guarantee media freedom, refrain from shutting down the Internet and respect human rights." 

"Journalists and other media professionals in Belarus must be able to do their job without fear of detentions, reprisals or restrictions (online or offline) that would violate the right to freedom of expression. Unjustly detained journalists and other media professionals must be immediately released. Those responsible for attacks on journalists and media professionals must be brought to justice, ” the document concluded.

As IMI reported, on September 23 in Minsk (Belarus) the editor-in-chief of the Nasha Niva weekly Yegor Martynovych was detained for three days in a case of defamation of Deputy Interior Minister Oleksandr Barsukov.

On September 16, the Frunzensky District Court in Minsk arrested Volodymyr Gridin, photo correspondent for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and the TUT.BY portal, for 11 days for participating in an unauthorized rally.

Another photojournalist, Oleksandr Vasyukovych, received the same term of arrest on similar charges.

On September 13, another rally of many thousands took place in Minsk - the March of Heroes - against the official results of the presidential election, in which Alexander Lukashenko was re-elected for a sixth term. Protesters called the announced CEC results falsified.

On September 17, independent Belarusian media outlets came out without photos in solidarity with arrested photojournalists Oleksandr Vasyukovich and Volodymyr Gridin.

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