Belarusian journalists forced into exile speak out
Five journalists and bloggers, driven into exile in Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine by a harsh crackdown on press freedom in Belarus, have agreed to speak today at an online conference organised by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Lithuanian embassy in France.
More than 50 independent Belarusian journalists have been forced to flee their country because of threats as a result of their work since the fraud-tainted re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020. At least 12 journalists are currently imprisoned in Belarus, most of them facing long prison terms.
An online conference has been organised by RSF today, nine months after the start of a harsh crackdown on civil society in Belarus, in particular on journalists covering protest demonstrations. Five of them, now based in Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland, have spoken at the event. All pursue their journalists’ mission from abroad so that their home country does not become an information “black hole”.
After opening remarks by RSF’s Secretary General and Executive Director, Christophe Deloire, and the former Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, attended have taken the floor:
- Hanna Liubakova, former correspondent of the Belarusian online television channel Belsat and the US broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty;
- Andrej and Volha Pavuk (currently in Lithuania), popular bloggers from the Homiel region (in the south-east of the country), founders of the YouTube channel Rudabelskaya Pakazuha ;
- Ruslan Kulevich (currently in Poland), journalist for the local news site Hrodna.life who launched the YouTube channel ‘We will Return', about Belarusian refugees in Poland;
- Sergei Prokhorov (currently in Ukraine), journalist and blogger, media expert, founder of the agregatar.com Telegram aggregator channel and the Telegram and YouTube @Belkrainec channels on the experiences of emigrants in Ukraine;
- Zmicier Mickiewicz (currently in Poland), reporter for the online channel Belsat.
Belarus fell five places in the 2021 World Press Freedom index compiled by RSF and now lies in 158th position of 180 countries.