The relentless crackdown on journalists in Belarus was referred by RSF today to three UN special rapporteurs – the rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and on the situation of human rights in Belarus.
RSF is calling on these three UN human rights experts to make every possible effort to get the Belarusian authorities to guarantee that all abuses against journalists and media and all obstacles to the freedom to inform cease at once. RSF is also asking the UN to ensure that all violations of journalists’ rights are the subject of thorough and impartial investigations, including at the international level, and that those responsible are prosecuted in compliance with international standards.
According to the official results, Lukashenko won another term as president with 80% of the vote in an election on 9 August that has been widely condemned as fraudulent, including by the European Union.
Since then, media outlets and journalists – including RSF correspondent Ilya Kuznyatsou – have been actively and deliberately subjected to violence and persecution by the Belarusian authorities with the aim, inter alia, of hampering the gathering and dissemination of information about the huge street protests in the wake of the disputed results.
“The Belarusian authorities have violently and relentlessly suppressed the freedom to inform for more than three months, although this is a key moment for democracy and the rule of law in Belarus,” said Paul Coppin, the head of RSF’s legal unit. “It is absolutely essential that the UN should make every effort to ensure that journalists are able – freely, without impediment and in complete safety – to cover future demonstrations and all other public interest developments.”
RSF’s investigations have shed light on the many forms that this crackdown on journalists has taken, including widespread and arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, prolonged detentions, beatings, deportations and withdrawal of accreditation. The authorities also disconnected the Internet and restricted access to news sites and electronic messaging services.
Since the presidential election, RSF has logged more than 350 violations of journalists’ rights, including 290 detentions. The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) has also tallied more than 50 cases of violence. Since the start of October, there have been another 87 violations of journalists’ rights, mainly arrests and detentions. Seven journalists are currently jailed.
Ruled by Lukashenko since 1994, Belarus is ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.