May 28, 2021

RSF at the Belarusian border: “The terrorist is the one who jails journalists and intimidates the public”

On May 27, twenty portraits of journalists locked up in Belarusian jails were brandished on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border by Belarusian, Lithuanian and French journalists. (credit: RSF)
Four days after the Belarusian authorities hijacked a Ryanair flight and arrested the journalist Raman Pratasevich, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organised a protest yesterday on the border between Lithuania and Belarus in support of the more than 20 journalists detained arbitrarily in Belarus.

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The Belarusian, Lithuanian and French journalists participating in the demonstration brandished 20 photos of journalists held in Belarusian prisons in a tribute to the courageous battle waged by media personnel in Belarus.

The protest was organised by Christophe Deloire, RSF’s secretary-general, Jeanne Cavelier, the head of its Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, and Dionizas Litvaitis, RSF’s correspondent in Lithuania, with support from the Lithuanian Journalists’ Association.

The photos included one of Raman Pratasevich, the journalist arrested by the Belarusian police after the Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk in violation of international law. RSF has filed a lawsuit in Lithuania accusing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of “hijacking an aircraft with criminal intent” – a lawsuit that has been incorporated into the criminal proceedings initiated by the Lithuanian authorities.

“Behind this fence is Belarus, the country with a government that is locking up a generation of journalists who are little more than 20 years old,” Deloire said. “Journalists are not terrorists, although Alexander Lukashenko has used this term to refer to Raman Pratasevich. On the contrary, the terrorist is the person who puts journalists in prison and uses his crimes of violence to intimidate the public. And this is exactly what Alexander Lukashenko does.”

Deloire added: “We have come to the border to protest against these arbitrary detentions and against the growing crackdown. We express our solidarity with all the journalists who are being persecuted, censored, jailed and tortured just for doing their work.”

According to the tally kept by RSF and the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), its local partner, there have been more than 420 arrests of journalists in Belarus since the disputed presidential election in August 2020. Belarus has fallen five places in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 158th out of 180 countries.