Victims of the persecution that began after the disputed presidential election on 9 August, the three journalists describe what they have endured, which is typical of the experiences of all the reporters who have been covering the peaceful demonstrations taking place for more than four months.
Natalia Lubneuskaya, a reporter for the Nasha Niva news website, Ihar Karnei, a journalist with the Belarusian branch of Radio Free Europe, and Marina Zolotova, the editor of TUT.by, Belarus’s most popular news site, have all been subjected to abuses. They agreed to be interviewed so that the outside world can learn how the Belarusian authorities have been obstructing their reporting.
“The policeman knew he was targeting a journalist,” says Lubneuskaya, who was hospitalized for 38 days after being hit by a rubber bullet.
“I can now say with certainty that an all-out war has been unleashed against journalists in Belarus,” says Karnei, who recounts what it was like to be held for ten days after being arrested while covering a demonstration, and the violence to which he was subjected in prison.
“This is the first time we have had to deal with this level of harassment,” says Zolotova, who describes how her website has ceased to be recognized as a media outlet since the start of the crackdown and how one of her reporters has been jailed on a criminal charge.
RSF has registered hundreds of press freedom violations since 9 August. Journalists with independent media outlets are harassed, arrested, subjected to violence, mistreated and sometimes tortured to prevent them from covering the major events that have been taking place. RSF has proposed 15 recommendations with the aim of ending these abuses.
Ruled since 1994 by Alexander Lukashenko, who has managed to be reelected as president in the first round every five years, Belarus is ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.