Volha Siakhovich, a representative of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, delivered speech during the UN Security Council Arria meeting. Since the beginning of the 2020 presidential election campaign, the situation with freedom of speech in Belarus has deteriorated dramatically as the authorities launched a violent crackdown trying to discourage journalists and bloggers from reporting on election-related protests. Since May, the authorities have stepped up their efforts to curb media coverage of the protests in Belarus, with more journalists being arrested than ever before.
A cameraman Uladzimir Luniou was filming peaceful protest actions in Minsk. On August 10, he was besieged by police near the ‘Pushkinskaya’ metro station. He was detained at about 11.30 pm, despite wearing a vest with the word “Press” and trying to explain that he was an independent journalist. According to the reporter, he was kept 'in inhumane conditions' in custody for 34 hours. He was released later, but his personal belongings were not returned to him. Moreover, he had to visit the detention center again, in order to get his passport back. The court ruling of August 21 has not been sent to him yet.
For the first time since the fraudulent elections in Belarus, journalists demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry in Minsk. They were protesting against the prolonged detention of six journalists. Police also arrested journalist Larysa Shchyrakova in Homiel and journalist Dzmitry Brushko in Minsk on Thursday. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) demand the immediate release of journalists in detention in Belarus.
All the detained journalists are left in the police station for the night.
Journalists deprived of accreditation in Belarus on August 29:
After the arbitrary detention of about 50 journalists on Thursday, the Belarusian authorities are stepping up the withdrawal of press accreditations for journalists covering the country’s news for foreign media. A wall of silence is gradually isolating Belarus from the rest of the world. The EFJ condemns the inaction and wait-and-see attitude of the international community. The Belarusian Interdepartmental Commission on Security in the Information Sphere has proceeded to a massive cancellation of press accreditations issued to journalists working for foreign media (AFP, AP, ARD, BBC, RFE/RL, Reuters, RFI…) in recent days.
The journalists of the German TV channel ARD detained the day before in Minsk and have been stripped of their accreditation. Russian representatives will be deported from Belarus. A protocol has been drawn up against the Belarusian representative Ilia Kuzniatsou for his alleged participation in a mass action. It also became known that Belarusian journalists working for the BBC, Reuters, Radio Svaboda, AFP and others have been denied accreditation.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) on Friday demanded the opening of a criminal investigation against those who detained at least 47 journalists on Thursday 27 August to prevent them from covering the protests against disputed President Lukashenko in Belarus. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) fully supports the legal proceedings initiated by its affiliate BAJ.
Belarusian journalists have long worked under extremely difficult conditions and have had to contend with limited access to information and the severe curtailment of freedom of speech. Volha Siakhovich looks at the latest media crackdown sparked by the recent presidential election and at how journalists have responded to the government’s actions.