European Federation of Journalists

Nordic Freelance conference: solidarity to support freelance journalists under attack in Belarus

The Nordic Freelance Conference 2018 took place this year in Malmö, Sweden. The Frilans Riks, the freelance section within the Swedish Union of Journalist (SJF), organised a two day conference focusing on threats against freelance journalists in particular from right wing extremists, rise in self-censorship, dialogue with the police, media situation in Belarus, as well as the power structure of the big tech companies (“GAFA”).

EFJ Director Renate Schroeder outlined the work of EFJ and its Freelance Expert Group (FREG) with a special focus on its advocacy work in Brussels for improving freelance rights and monitoring increasing threats against (freelance) journalists throughout Europe. She suggested to use the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

The participants listened to Larysa Shchyrakova, one of the most harassed freelance journalists in Belarus during 2017, Volha Siakhovich, lawyer at Belarusian Association of Journalists, and Åsa Ohlsson, chairman of Frilans Syd (freelance journalists in southern Sweden), who is involved in a project of collaboration between the Belarusian Association of Journalists and Frilans Syd (see below the statement).

Larysa Shchyrakova and her colleague Volha Chaichyts visited on 17 September Paris to meet with journalists, politicians and other stakeholders. The meeting was organised by FREG co-chair Pablo Aiquel (SNJ-CGT) with the support of the French unions. The next day they met EU officials in Brussels and hold a press conference at the Press Club.

Intensified prosecution of freelance journalists in Belarus
The prosecution of freelance journalists in Belarus is a threat both to freedom of speech and to
the freelance journalists’ personal lives. Imposing fines on the journalist who contribute to
foreign media violates international statues of press freedom and the right to access to
In 2017 69 fines were issued to freelance journalist and so far during this year 76 fines were
issued. These figures show that the situation of Belarusian freelance journalists’ situation has
deteriorated in 2018. The legal prosecution of freelance journalists for their cooperation with
foreign mass media without accreditation has significantly increased. The total sum of fines
on article 22.9 part 2 of the Belarus Code of Administrative Offenses has exceeded EUR
25,000 in equivalent since the year start. There have taken place more than 76 trials on
administrative cases against freelance journalists since the beginning of 2018.
We as freelance journalist in the Nordic countries are very concerned with the current
situation for the rights of freelance journalists, in Belarus.
We, the participants of the Nordic Freelance Seminar 2018, in Malmö, Sweden calls upon the
official authorities of Belarus:
– not to harass journalists for doing their journalistic activity
– to stop immediately the prosecution of freelance journalists for their professional work;
– to amend Belarusian media law to guarantee equal rights to all journalists in accordance
with international standards and international obligations of Belarus.

Frilans Riks , the freelance district within The Swedish Union of Journalist (SJF)
SFJ, Association of Finnish Freelance Journalist in Finland
FAO, Freelance Chapter of Radio- and TV-journalists Union in Finland
NJ Frilans, within the Norwegian Union of Journalists
FreelanceGruppen within The Danish Union of Journalists

Photo:  Hasse Hedström