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
For more information contact the IFJ at
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The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in
125 countries worldwide