Belarus: at least 14 journalists attacked and arrested during peaceful protests

Over 200 people, including 14 journalists, were arrested on June 21 during peaceful demonstrations against the arrest of presidential nominee Viktar Babaryka. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) join their affiliate, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) in condemning the arrests and urge the authorities to stop harassing journalists for doing their job.

Riot police officers watch protesters in Minsk, Belarus, on June 19, 2020. Police detained more than a dozen journalists covering the protests, and charged three. (AFP/Sergei Gapon)

According to the BAJ, at least 14 journalists were arrested while covering the protests despite wearing badges and press vests to be recognized as media workers. Despite this, the BAJ claimed that journalists were attacked by the police, even while live streaming. Some of them were beaten by the police.

These attacks, as reported by BAJ, are a blatant violation of Belarusian laws. Article 34 of the “Mass Media” law guarantees the right of journalists to report on public events, while freedom of expression and the right to disseminate information are rights protected by the Belarussian Constitution.

Despite the legal framework, journalists in Belarus have recently suffered from a growing number of restrictions to their work. According to BAJ, journalists have been systematically banned from meetings of state bodies, denied access to official information on public interest issues, such as information about COVID-19 and the elections, and many media workers have been harassed, threatened and detained by the police during the past few months.

The BAJ is reporting all the attacks on media freedom on its website.

IFJ and EFJ join BAJ in calling on Belarusian authorities to strictly comply with the law and stop persecuting journalists and obstructing their professional activity.

Both organizations also call on the authorities to take proper legal action against police officials involved in the reported attacks and stop making distinctions between state and non-state media.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “Journalists in Belarus are being subjected to unacceptable restrictions when doing their job. This is very harmful to Belarusian citizens, who need to be informed about key events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, national elections or public demonstrations. Those responsible for the attacks on media workers have to be held accountable.

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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