Early in the morning of 16 February, BAJ press secretary Barys Haretski was briefly detained by Belarusian security forces. BAJ’s lawyer Aleh Aheyeu and BAJ’s president Andrei Bastunets were also detained to witness the search of BAJ’s offices. Other searches and raids were under way Tuesday morning at the homes and offices of journalists and human rights activists in various cities across the country.
These police operations targeted several organisations that position themselves as human rights organisations. These prosecutions are carried out on the basis of Article 342 of the Criminal Code, for “organising and preparing actions that seriously violate public order”. The investigators are trying to identify the sources of funding for the mass demonstrations organised in the country to contest the outcome of the fraudulent elections of 9 August 2020.
Riot police officers visited the home of freelance journalist Larisa Shchyrakova in Homel. Another journalist from Homel, Anatoly Gotovchits, is also wanted.
Searches were also conducted at the home of journalist Ales Burakou Jr. in Mahilou and at the home of the press secretary of the Belarusian Human Rights House Barys Zvozkau.
The IFJ and EFJ call on the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the European Union to take action in order to restore the rule of law in Belarus.
IFJ President, Younes Mjahed, said: "This is another blatant attack on press freedom and we stricly condemn the targeting of our colleagues at BAJ and other journalists and human rights defenders. We demand Lukashenko's government to stop once for all its harassment against the press. We also call on international organisations to take strict measures to support press freedom in Belarus".
“For weeks we have been denouncing the intensified repression of democratic forces in Belarus. After administrative and criminal proceedings against journalists, the Belarusian dictatorship is now attacking the representative organisation of journalists. It is high time for the international community to finally take action to put an end to the abuses of illegitimate President Lukashenko,” said EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård.