The International Federation of Journalists today accused the Belarus authorities over a “climate of repression” which has faced journalists before, during and since the presidential election held 19 March. The IFJ said the government had responsibility for the intimidating atmosphere surrounding the work of journalists in a report delivered to the annual meeting of the European Federation of Journalists today.
“Since Lukashenko became president ten years ago his government has set out on a deliberate and relentless path to return Belarus media to the pre-Glasnost days of the Soviet-style control”, said Oliver Money-Kyrle, IFJ Project Director. “They have created a climate of repression that has come close to stifling the voice of independent journalism.”
The report documents measures taken by the authorities to target and intimidate Belarus media over the years and reveals the conditions under which Belarus journalists are forced to work daily and how the pressure on journalists has been amplified in the run up to the Presidential election.
The report cites in particular:
• The arrest of over 30 Belarusian journalists and eight foreign journalists, during and immediately after the Presidential election;
• Complete censorship of state media, which has been used as propaganda and consistently portrayed Lukashenko as the defender of peace and stability while opposition figures have been cast as harbingers of chaos, poverty and lawlessness;
• Numerous attempts to intercept distribution of private newspapers during the election campaign;
• The exclusion of the majority of remaining private media from access to the state printing and distribution systems since January, forcing newspapers to print in Russia and transport across border.
The IFJ says that the independent Belarus Association of Journalist played a crucial role in monitoring and recording all incidents and alerting the world to the constant oppression facing Belarus journalists.
“The only thing preventing the total return of Soviet style media to Belarus is the courage and determination of the members of the Belarus Association of Journalists,” added Arne König, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists. “All journalists across Europe will support their struggle for free journalism in Belarus.”
For further information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 22 00
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries