During just two days, June 19 and 20, at least 14 journalists were arrested in Belarus while performing their professional duties.
Moreover, most of the reporters not only had press IDs, as required by the law on mass media, and were ready to present them on demand, but were also clearly marked as media staff (with press vests and badges).
Some of the arrested journalists, in particular, Alexander Pazniak and Siarhei Bahrou in Hantsavichy, were beaten. Moreover, often the police officers attacked (it is difficult to find another word) journalists when they were livestreaming, and violations of journalists' rights were obvious.
We call attention to the fact that article 34 of the Law "On Mass Media" entitles journalists performing professional duties to be present, as determined by the rules established by the law, at mass actions and in places of other public important events, and impart information (p.2.2.). The detained journalists followed the requirements of the law — in contrast to the law enforcement officers who grossly violated their rights.
These events have become the quintessence of restrictions on the right to receive and disseminate information and freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. Recently, journalists and mass media are constantly banned from attending meetings of state bodies, denied official information on issues that are important for society (the pandemic and elections), harassed by fines and threats from state agencies (including threats to deprive the media and journalists of accreditation), and detained.
We demand from the competent state authorities:
- to strictly observe articles 33 and 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, which guarantee freedom of expression, prohibition of censorship, and the right to receive and disseminate information;
- to stop persecution of non-state media journalists, freelancers and foreign media journalists for performing their professional duties;
- to ensure equal treatment in terms of accreditation, provision of information and strict compliance with article 13 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, which guarantees everyone equal rights and equal opportunities for the free use of talent and property for business and other economic activities not prohibited by law;
- to stop dividing mass media into state and non-state, favored and disfavored, convenient and inconvenient while ensuring the right to access and disseminate information, as stipulated in articles 13, 33, and 34 of the Constitution;
- to stop obstructing the legitimate professional activities of journalists; and
- to make legal assessment of the actions of law enforcement agencies' representatives who detained journalists and obstructed their activities and to hold them accountable under article 198 of the Criminal code, which establishes responsibility for any form of obstructing the lawful professional activities of a journalist or forcing journalists to disseminate or refuse to disseminate information, committed with the use of violence or with the threat of its use, destruction or damage to property, infringement of the rights and legitimate interests of a journalist.
Belarusian Association of Journalists
BelaPAN news agency
Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belarusi
European Radio for Belarus
Association of Regional Press Publishers
Belarusian Public Association of Photographers
Vitsiebski Kuryer news
Belarusian Radio Racyja
“Centre for informational support of public initiatives “The Third sector”
Belarusy i rynok