BORIS GORETSKIY / VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE BELARUSIAN ASSOCIATION OF JOURNALISTS
“The government only took into custody 215 journalists in August-September.Many of our colleagues spent 5 to 30 days in prisons. 54 journalists severely beaten by security guards or injured by plastic bullets. “
During August and September months, the authorities in Belarus 215 times imprisoned journalists. Many of them spent from 5 to 30 days in prisons. 54 journalists suffered from violence: they were severely beaten by security offi cials or wounded by rubber bullets.
Repressions against media in Belarus started this year in May, when the presidential campaign was announced. Banker Viktor Babariko, blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky (after his arrest, his wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya became a candidate for presidency) and others decided to challenge Alexander Lukashenko, who has been the President for 26 years.
From the very beginning of the campaign journalists, who covered pre-election meetings, were detained and sent to prisons for allegedly participation in unauthorized protests.
The next wave of repression was in mid-July, when spontaneous protests took place in Minsk and other cities of Belarus. Then, thepolice detained dozens of journalists from different media during the actions, took them to police stations and confi scatedtheir equipment.
Since July, the authorities have stopped issuing accreditation to foreign journalists. In Belarusit iscompulsory, andin case ofwork without accreditation, foreign colleagues can be detained and imprisoned. Several hundreds of foreign journalists could not receive accreditation and were forbidden from entering Minsk. About 50 journalists, who nevertheless decided to enter the country, were detained at the border and were not allowed inside.
The peak of pressure on the media was inthe end of the election campaign. Journalists in the regions were preventively arrested even before voting day, fi lm crews of foreign TV channels were detained and deported from the country. And since August 9, every day the number of imprisoned and beaten journalists went to dozens. We saw a real violence wave from the authorities: targeted beatings of press media, shooting of rubber bullets, detentions, a complete shutdown of the Internet in the country for 3 days, hundreds of blocked websites.
Just can you imagine: the evening of August 10, it was still daylight. People werejust gatheringfor protest. Armed security forces appeared in the area of the offi ce of Belarusian Association of Journalists, they fi red rubber bullets at groups of people. The soldier turned to Natallia Lubneuskaja, the journalist of Nasha Niva, she was wearing a blue Press vest, and she had a badge on her chest and held a phone in her hand. The soldiershot at her leg from 10 meters. After that, she spent more than a month in the hospital with a terrible wound. Until now, nobody of the policeoffi cerswas prosecuted for any fact of violence. Not anyone.
After the elections.
Mass protests continue in Belarus. Moreover, the authorities continue their repression. Police imprisons journalists almost daily. They continue to be in prisons. The websites of many non-state media remain blocked. The government media continue to lie openly, humiliating the honor and dignity of protesters and journalists from the independent press. In the meantime, the courts decide for more and more arrests of journalists.
In such circumstances, the Belarusian Association of Journalists thanks everyone who expressed and continues to express solidarity with their Belarusian colleagues. Please, do not be silent about Belarus! Your support is very important to us!