The two Russian media professionals are not obliged to leave the country, but they can no longer work freely as they are no longer officially recognised as journalists. The Foreign Ministry provided no explanation for its decision. However, several media reports and Channel One's representatives confirmed that the decision followed the Russian journalists's report on the coronavirus outbreak in Belarus.
As of 6 May, Belarus had officially reported 19,255 confirmed coronavirus cases and 112 deaths. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has repeatedly mocked concerns over COVID-19 and diseases caused by the coronavirus.
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We always and consistently condemn any attempts by governments to bring pressure on media, restrict journalists' rights and to censor, including deprivation of accreditation and prohibition of work. Free speech and journalists' fundamental rights must remain untouched during the COVID pandemic. We urge the Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reintegrate the journalist’s accreditation as soon as possible.”
The RUJ said: “We consider the measures taken by the Belarusian side as excessive and unacceptable. We call on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Belarus for detailed explanations on the deprivation of accreditation of our colleagues and demand to try to find ways to overcome this situation as soon as possible through an expanded dialogue of solidarity between the media and journalistic organizations of our countries.”