The Belarusian authorities must immediately end their assault on journalists, Amnesty International said today, amid reports of journalists being arrested, beaten, and targeted with rubber bullets while covering the vicious police crackdown on protests. Media workers have also had their cameras smashed and their footage deleted.
“Journalists in Belarus are doing heroic work to ensure the world knows about the authorities’ brutal repression of protests. It is horrifying to see the lengths to which the government will go to suppress this information – attacking reporters with batons and rubber bullets, destroying their equipment, and throwing dozens in jail, said Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“Journalists are being attacked for exposing the crimes committed by the Belarusian authorities against their own people in a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression. The government has even disabled the internet to prevent people from sharing information. As unprecedented numbers of people continue to take to the streets in Belarus, it is essential that press freedom is protected and that no one is harmed simply for doing their job.”
Journalists intimidated and attacked
Both local and international journalists have been targeted. On the evening of August 11, security forces in Minsk attacked a TV crew from the BBC Russian Service, all of whom were wearing identification vests and bearing official accreditation cards.
Several men in unmarked black uniforms who appeared to be security forces demanded to see the journalists’ accreditation. One man tore the card from a correspondent’s neck, snatched the camera from her and tried to break it. The men then beat another BBC journalist and struck several blows to his camera. In this case, the journalists were not detained.
On the first day of protests, men in camouflage uniforms shot a rubber bullet at Natalia Lubneuskaya, a reporter with Nasha Niva, wounding her in the leg. Nasha Niva is one of the few independent media outlets in Belarus and its staff have been subjected to years of harassment by the authorities.
Other journalists who have reported being attacked include Vadzim Zamirouski, Darya Burakina and Usevalad Zarubin from Tut.by, Belarus’s most widely-read news site; Associated Press photographer Syarhei Hryts; Nasha Niva reporter Nadzeya Buzhan; Onliner reporters Uladzislau Barysavich and Syarhei Ptushka; and Belsat reporters Pavel Patapau and Ivan Murauyou.
Thousands of protesters have been detained, and the Belarusian Journalists Association has documented the detentions of at least 55 journalists.
Amnesty International calls on the Belarusian authorities to respect media and to immediately and unconditionally release journalists detained solely for fulfilling their professional duties. They must also release all peaceful activists detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. They must end reprisals against peaceful protesters, and investigate acts of unlawful force by police.
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