The Belarusian Affiliation of Journalists and the Viasna human rights heart stated authorities searched the flats and workplaces of not less than 31 journalists and activists within the capital of Minsk and 7 different cities.
“The authorities are utilizing a complete arsenal of repressions towards journalists – intimidation, beatings, searches and arrests,” Andrei Bastunets, the pinnacle of the journalists’ affiliation, stated..
The nation’s major safety company, which nonetheless goes beneath its Soviet-era title KGB, stated these focused had been suspected of involvement in “extremist actions.”
Amongst these focused Friday had been 22 journalists who labored for the Belsat TV channel, which is funded by Poland, and for Us-funded broadcaster RFE/RL. Authorities broke down the door of RFE/RL’s workplace in Minsk.
RFE/RL journalist Aleh Hruzdzilovich was detained after the search of his household’s dwelling, his spouse, Maryana, informed The Related Press in a phone interview from Minsk.
“9 folks broke into our residence, seized all of the gear and took Aleh away in handcuffs,” she stated.
Viasna stated authorities additionally raided the properties of Alena Anisim, head of the Union of Belarusian Language, and activists with the nongovernmental group Authorized Initiative.
Belarus’ investigative committee, the highest state investigative company, stated the raids had been a part of a probe into alleged tax evasion and violations of monetary laws by NGOs and media shops.
The brand new raids proceed a sweeping clampdown on unbiased media and non-government organizations within the nation.
Earlier this week, legislation enforcement officers raided the properties of 10 Viasna staff, in addition to the human rights heart’s workplaces in Minsk and different cities. In addition they searched a lot of different Belarusian NGOs and journalists.
The motion got here after President Alexander Lukashenko, the longtime authoritarian chief of Belarus, promised to “take care of” organizations that he accuses of fomenting unrest.
Belarus was rocked by months of protests after Lukashenko’s August 2020 election to a sixth time period in a vote that the opposition and the West noticed as rigged.
Belarusian authorities responded to opposition demonstrations with a large crackdown, together with police beating 1000’s of demonstrators and arresting greater than 35,000 folks. Main opposition figures have been jailed or pressured to depart the nation, whereas unbiased media shops have had their workplaces searched and their journalists arrested.
General, 32 Belarusian journalists are at the moment in custody, both serving their sentences or awaiting trial, in line with the Belarusian Affiliation of Journalists.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko’s major challenger within the August 2020 election, who was pressured to depart Belarus beneath official strain instantly after the vote, tweeted Friday that “the regime destroys each media that dares to inform the reality concerning the state of affairs in Belarus.”
Additionally on Friday, 11 college college students and a trainer had been sentenced to 2 and a pair of 1/2-year jail phrases on accusations of staging and coordinating protests final fall.
US ambassador to Belarus, Julie Fisher, condemned the decision. “How fragile is a regime that may’t abide free expression and civic engagement by 11 college college students? These younger folks current a profile in braveness,” she stated on Twitter.
Fisher additionally stated that Friday’s raids concentrating on journalists “show cowardice and the shortcoming to deal with truth-telling versus the lionization and fantasies woven each day on state TV.”
RFE/RL strongly condemned Friday’s raiding of its bureau and the detention of Hruzdzilovich and former RFE/RL correspondent Ina Studzinskaya and demanded their speedy launch.
“These raids and arrests testify to the despotic desperation of the Lukashenko regime to cling to energy in any respect prices,” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly stated in a press release. “Lukashenko’s criminalization of unbiased journalism is a cynical try and exert absolute management over what the Belarusian folks see and listen to. These intimidation techniques won’t silence our journalism.”
The European Union’s overseas coverage chief, Josep Borrell, denounced the crackdown in a press release issued Thursday.
“This new wave of repression is yet one more proof that the Lukashenko regime is waging a scientific and well-orchestrated marketing campaign with the final word goal to silence all remaining dissident voices and suppress civic house in Belarus,” Borrell stated. “The extreme violations of human rights and basic freedoms come at a worth. The EU is able to take into account additional restrictive measures in step with its gradual strategy.”