In Belarus, the 2020 presidential election campaign has demonstrated unprecedented pressure on journalists.
With the start of the election campaign on May 8, and until August 11, BAJ has noted 133 cases of serious violations of journalists’ rights (detentions, arrests, fines, and beatings). In addition, at least 10 criminal cases have been started against popular bloggers and administrators of Telegram channels.
The pressure on journalists has grown stronger in the final stages of the elections and after them. The authorities preventively detained and took into custody 13 journalists before the election.
The journalists have been sent to serve short terms in prison on trumped up charges. Moreover, the police organized a provocation against Alexander Burakou Sr: they claim he pushed a woman when leaving the police station and charged him with disorderly conduct.
Right before the election — on August 7 and 9 — the police detained two groups of journalists: foreign reporters of the Current Time and TV Rain (the latter crew was detained in a brutal way — the police knocked them down and kept them with their faces on the pavement). They were expelled from the country for working without accreditation.
Meanwhile, BAJ knows of about 30 cases when journalists of various foreign media applied to the MFA for a temporary accreditation but have not heard back within 20 days envisaged by the law. That is, the government has intentionally prevented them from working legally.
On 9 August, many journalists were forced out from the polling stations, although Belarus’ legislation allows them to report from polling stations without restrictions. BAJ knows of 22 cases when journalists were detained on the Election Day. Some of the detentions were brutal. The police continues to detain journalists during the follow-up protests.
BAJ knows of at least 7 journalists who have been severely beaten and injured by police.
On August 10 Nasha Niva journalist Natalia Lubneuskaya was injured by a rubber bullet. The journalists present on the scene believe the police targeted them with the shooting despite the fact that they were clearly marked with press vests and badges.
The Internet in Belarus is completely or partially down since August 9. The majority of news websites are blocked.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists:
- states mass violations of journalists’ and media rights during the whole period of the presidential election 2020. This is a gross violation of the freedom of speech and transparency of the election process;
- calls on the authorities to stop violating the rights of journalists and media, let alone the violence against journalists, as well as citizens who express their protest in a peaceful way; and
- demands to identify those responsible for violations of journalists’ and media rights and hold them accountable.