Belarus: Authorities withdraw foreign press accreditations

After the arbitrary detention of 50 journalists on 27 August, Belarusian authorities have withdrawn at least 17 foreign journalists' press accreditations. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) demand the authorities return the accreditations to the affected journalists immediately.

A riot policemen pulls a memory card out of a journalist's camera. Credits: SERGEI GAPON/AFP

The Belarusian Interdepartmental Commission on Security in the Information Sphere has canceled press accreditations issued to journalists working for foreign media over recent days. Government spokesman Anatoly Glaz told AFP the decision to revoke the media accreditations was taken on the recommendation of the country’s counter-terrorism unit.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) has compiled a list of journalists whose accreditation has been withdrawn:

  1. Ilia Kuzniatsou, ARD;
  2. Sergey Sergeyev, ARD;
  3. Mikhail Fomin, ARD;
  4. Tatyana Melnichuk, BBC;
  5. Tatyana Yanutsevich, BBC;
  6. Ales Dashchinsky, RFE/RL;
  7. Oleg Gruzdilovich, RFE/RL;
  8. Vladimir Gridin, RFE/RL;
  9. Aleksandra Dynko, RFE/RL;
  10. Vasily Fedosenko, Reuters;
  11. Uladzimir Kostsin, Reuters;
  12. Sergey Gapon, AFP;
  13. Aliaxandr Grabenkin, AFP;
  14. Yuras Karmanau, AP;
  15. Siarhei Gryts, AP;
  16. Gennady Sharipkin, RFi;
  17. Raman Vasukovich,

Members of the ARD TV team, Ilia Kuzniatsou, Sergey Sergeyev, and Mikhail Fomin, were detained in Minsk and spent the night detained by the police department. They were accused of “active participation in the mass action” and deprived of accreditation “to ensure the information security of the country.” Sergeyev and Fomin were deported to Russia and banned from traveling to Belarus for five years.

A BBC spokesperson confirmed to AFP that two BBC journalists working for its Russian service in Minsk had their press accreditation withdrawn with immediate effect.

The Belarusian authorities have intensified their action to prevent journalists from reporting on the protests over the disputed presidential election in Belarus. Journalists reporting on the demonstrations have faced arbitrary detentions, fines, and beatings by the police.

On August 27, police had detained 47 local and foreign journalists preparing to cover protests in the Belarusian capital Minsk. They confiscated telephones and identity documents.

Earlier this month, the Belarusian authorities blocked access to media websites and disrupted media circulation, claiming that there were problems with the printing press.

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: "Stripping foreign correspondents of their accreditation means our colleagues are no longer protected and could result in them being arrested if they are caught reporting on the streets. We firmly condemn this latest attack against the press and urge the Belarusian foreign ministry to review its decision immediately. The public has the right to know what is happening in the country."

EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez said:“Calls for dialogue by the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are no longer enough. Through its inertia and silence, the international community is complicit in the repression of the Belarusian people.”

Nine journalists were arrested over the weekend, according to BAJ. This brings to 141 the number of journalists detained in the country since 9 August.

PABUJ, another IFJ affiliate, already held two meetings with the Minister of Internal Affairs on the situation of detained journalists.

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

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