European Federation of Journalists

Belarus: at least 22 journalists detained around election day

Credit: Sergei GAPON / AFP

Many journalists were prevented from working while covering the Belarusian presidential election on Sunday. At least 22 journalists were detained, sometimes with violence, according to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) denounces the conditions under which journalists have had to do their work facing brutality and restrictions.

According to BAJ live monitoring, at least 22 journalists were detained around election day in Minsk, Vitebsk, Mogilev and Grodno. Further to this, it was reported that:

  • Journalists of the Russian TV channel Dozhd (TV Rain) Vladimir Romensky, Vasily Poklonsky and cameraman Nikolai Antipov were brutally detained in Minsk after interviewing presidential candidate SvetlanaTikhanovskaya and were deported from the country. A five-year ban was imposed to the media outlet;
  • Police searched into the homes of several journalists;
  • Internet connectivity were disrupted throughout the country, including with Telegram and VPN;
  • Unlike in previous elections, only photographers were allowed to go to the polling station where Alexander Lukashenko was voting. Live broadcast was prohibited;
  • Several journalists were expelled from the polling stations;
  • Associated Press photographer Mstislav Chernov was brutally beaten by Belarusian security forces and taken to hospital;
  • Maksim Solopov, special correspondent for Meduza in Minsk, was beaten and stopped answering calls shortly after 1 am on August 10;
  • Today, journalists were not allowed to enter the Minsk Press Club for a press conference organised by human rights defenders.

Following the announcement of the official figures showing outgoing president Lukashenko’s ambition to remain in power, thousands of protestors took the streets last night to express their dissatisfaction. Violence were used against protestors and journalists covering the mass gatherings.

“Belarusian independent journalists have been experiencing for years constant pressure, detention and state harassment. Today we stand with the journalists and our colleagues from BAJ who keep working despite the situation. We urge European leaders to strongly condemn these violations of media freedom and these continuing breaches of the rule of law in Belarus,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “The impunity enjoyed by Europe’s last dictator Alexander Lukashenko must end!”

Since the beginning of the year, BAJ recorded more than 130 violations of journalists’ rights in Belarus.