European Federation of Journalists

Belarus: Authorities confiscate exiled journalist’s property, search journalists’ union leader apartment

Law enforcement officers break into the apartment of journalist Dzmitry Kazakevich on 16 May, 2024.
Credits: Video screenshot / BAJ

On 20 May 2024, state media informed that an apartment belonging to journalist Dzmitry Kazakevich will be confiscated and sold as “sanctions compensation”. On 16 May 2024, law enforcement authorities invaded the home of the Belarus Journalists’ Association (BAJ) deputy chairperson, Barys Haretski, in Minsk. The International and the European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their affiliate, BAJ, in condemning the latest repressive moves by the Lukashenko regime and calling on the authorities to halt the systematic harassment of exiled journalists.

In a week’s time, the Belarusian authorities searched the homes of two exiled journalists.

On 20 May, a TV program broadcasted on state-run media announced that the apartment of exiled freelance journalist Dzmitry Kazakevich will be confiscated for the benefit of the state and sold as “compensation for damage caused by sanctions,” denounced BAJ in a statement. Show host Ihar Tur, known to be a “state propagandist”, claimed that calls for sanctions are an economic crime and the consequence should be economic punishment.

The news came out three days after law enforcement officers raided and sealed Kazakevich’s property, breaking down the door in the northeastern city of Vitebsk. The journalist has not lived in Belarus since August 2021.

In a different operation, authorities searched the home of exiled BAJ’s deputy chairperson, Barys Haretski, on 16 May and opened a criminal case against him. Haretski and other BAJ’s leaders were forced to leave the country in 2021 after law enforcement officers raided the organisation’s headquarters in Minsk.

In March 2023, the BAJ was labelled an ‘extremist’ group by the regime, meaning that anyone who engaged in its activities could face up to 10 years in jail.

“Searches and initiation of criminal cases against journalists who left the country are aimed at intimidating media representatives. The authorities cannot influence independent media that work from abroad, but they always remind us: we are watching you, your every action, and every material is being monitored […],” said the BAJ’s deputy chairperson to IFJ.

“However, independent media continue to effectively reach audiences in Belarus. And, of course, this angers the authorities, who try to put pressure on people using all means available to them,” Haretski added.

The IFJ and the EFJ strongly condemned the latest repressive moves by Lukashenko‘s regime and stood in solidarity with journalists who left their country and still have to be in fear and feel persecuted by the security services. Both federations called on the authorities to stop harassing journalists and demanded the release of 32 journalists and media workers imprisoned in Belarus.

The global trade union movement expressed its solidarity with workers in Belarus and urged governments and employers to help put an end to human and trade union violations in the country.