IFJ Protests against Legal Harassment of Belarus Association of Journalists.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today protested

against Ministry of Justice threats of legal action against the Belarus

Association of Journalists (BAJ) for issuing press cards to its members and for

engaging in activities beyond the scope of their statutes.


"To charge a journalists' association with illegally issuing press

cards is a sign that the government of Belarus is so anti independent media

that it has lost all sense of proportion and reality," said Aidan White, IFJ

General Secretary. "It uses every bureaucratic trick in the trade to squeeze

the life out of independent journalism. It opens itself up to ridicule across



Last week the BAJ received a letter from the Ministry of Justice

accusing it of being in breach of the media law for issuing press cards when it

is registered as an NGO and not a media organisation. It further claims that

the Legal Centre for Media Protection, a department that provides essential

legal defence to journalists, acts beyond the statues of the organisation.


BAJ denies any wrong doing claiming that they cannot be in breach of a

media law that does not govern the activities of NGOs. Andrei

Bastunets, Deputy Chairperson of BAJ, described

the warning of the Ministry of Justice as "strange."


The BAJ, an affiliate of the IFJ that boasts over 1200 members, has

been the country's leading voice for press freedom and independent journalism

since its establishment in 1995. In 2004 it received the European Parliament's

Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and regularly addresses governments and

European institutions in its efforts to raise awareness about the lack of press

freedom in Belarus. In September it hosted an international mission to Belarus

to review the status of the media which was received by the then Minister

of Information. The mission found that despite the thin veneer of symbolic reforms in

2009, little could conceal the fact that Belarus continues to operate a highly

repressive media environment.


"It appears that BAJ are being targeted for punishment for their courage,

leadership and determination to fight for their members'  rights," added Marc

Gruber, European Co-Director. "It is not for government to decide who can be a

journalist and who can carry a press card. The only thing that our colleagues

are guilty of is representing journalists."


More details on the BAJ web

site: http://baj.by/m-p-viewpub-tid-1-pid-7889.html

For more information contact the IFJ at

  +32 2 235 2215       

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in

125 countries worldwide