BAJ statement on mass detentions of journalists

The Belarusian PEN Center signs the BAJ statement and shares it.  July 14 and 15 journalists covering mass street protests in Belarus and livestreaming from them were detained, again.

These days, the Belarusian Association of Journalists noted at least 15 cases when reporters, including foreign ones, were detained when performing their professional duties.

Some of the journalists were told they were not detained but taken to a police station for an identity check. However, it was obviously done to keep them from reporting.

RFE/RL reporter Anton Trafimovich had his nose broken during a brutal arrest.

On June 23, after the first wave of detentions of reporters, BAJ and 57 media organizations addressed the state authorities of Belarus with the demand to stop harassment of journalists for performance of their professional duties.

The statement demanded to provide a legal assessment of the law-enforcement officers’ activities, including detention of journalists and preventing them from doing their job, and to bring the perpetrators to account under Art. 198 of the Criminal Code. This article provides for liability for any form of impeding of legal professional activities of a journalist or forcing to disseminate or not to disseminate information, committed with violence or threat of violence, destruction or damage of property, or violation of the rights and legitimate interests of a journalist.

In fact, the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs refused to consider the statement of the media community, leading the way to continued violations of the law by the law-enforcement bodies in their actions against journalists.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists:

  • expresses its indignation and protests against the detention of journalists who are performing their duties;
  • confirms the demands expressed in its statement on June 23, 2020, and calls upon the authorities to stop violations of the Belarusian legislation by the law-enforcement forces and to bring those responsible to account;
  • reiterates the guaranteed right of journalists to be present at mass events and transmit information from there; and
  • calls on the authorities of Belarus to abide by international standards and obligations in the field of freedom of speech.