The Congress was attended by about 60 delegates, and guests.
The Congress discussed the BAJ activities over the past three years and elected BAJ governing bodies: Chairperson, 4 deputy chairs, the Board and the Council.
At the beginning of the Congress the delegates paid tribute to the memory of BAJ members who have died since the previous congress:
Then numerous messages of solidarity from international human rights and journalist organizations were read: International Federation of Journalists, PEN International IFEX, Index of censorship, Reporters Without Borders ARTICLE 19 and others.
The delegates mentioned the names of journalists who are currently in jail:
Siarhei Hardziyevich (under house arrest)
Human rights activist, BAJ member Leanid Sudalenka, Iryna Zlobina (arrested together with Andrei Aliaksandrau), and BAJ members, columnist Alexander Fiaduta and politician Pavel Seviarynets are also behind bars.
BAJ chairman reported to the Congress on BAJ activities and achievements over the past three years.
Andrei Bastunets stressed that the organization had been working towards its statutory goals and objectives, despite all the circumstances faced by the community in general and BAJ in particular.
"In 2019, our educational events were at the core of our activities, but, obviously, in 2020 we focuced on human rights activities, advocacy, and support of the colleagues who were persecuted," - said Bastunets.
Some BAJ members took part in the Congress via the Zoom platform.
Andrei Bastunets was elected chairperson of the Belarusian Association of Journalists
His candidacy was supported unanimously by the Congress delegates.
Aleh Aheeu, Alexander Starykevich, Barys Haretski, and Iryna Slaunikava were elected deputy chairs.
The Board was elected:
The new Council was elected, too:
The Congress delegates note that the conditions for media and the general situation with the freedom of expression in Belarus have significantly deteriorated in recent years:
criminal and administrative prosecution of journalists, bloggers, and other media employees violates the standards of freedom of expression, the international obligations of Belarus and the constitutional provisions on the right of everyone to receive, store and disseminate information;
the planned amendments to the law on the media will further limit the freedom of expression; no genuine discussion of these amendments where representatives of media, civic society and business community could participate only emphasizes their repressive nature;
State monopoly on most of the electronic and print media, as well as the printing and distribution system makes the constitutional guarantees of equality of rights of enterprises of different ownership and freedom of expression obsolete;
freelance journalists in Belarus still remain outside the law.
The Congress points out the catastrophic decline in the quality of the government-funded media, which do not adhere to even minimal standards of journalistic ethics, openly use hate speech and insult the "opponents" of the ruling power. On the other hand, the Congress draws attention to the apparent rise in the volume of Russian propaganda in state media that endangers the information security of Belarus.
The Congress demands:
to immediately release all imprisoned journalists and media experts;
to involve Belarusian society, journalistic and business communities, as well as international experts in the discussion of the changes in media legislation;
to recognize legislatively the right of everyone to collect and disseminate information in local and foreign mass media;
to ensure unhindered access of journalists to information;
to create equal economic conditions for the media; to abandon the state monopoly in the fields of printing and distribution of media products.
The Congress of the Belarusian Association of Journalists calls on the Belarusian authorities and society to pay exceptional attention to the situation with the freedom of speech, which is not only a part of fundamental human rights and freedoms, but is also a criterion for maintaining other rights and freedoms.