Belarus crackdowns on journalists covering protests against president

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Belarus, rocked by three weeks of massive protests against its authoritarian president, severely cracked down on the news media on Saturday, expelling some foreign journalists reporting in the country and revoking the accreditation of many Belarusian journalists.Two Moscow-based Associated Press journalists covering the recent protests in Belarus were deported to Russia on Saturday. In addition, Belarusian PA journalists have been informed by the government that their press credentials have been revoked.

“The Associated Press denounces in the strongest terms this blatant attack on press freedom in Belarus. The PA calls on the Belarusian government to restore the credentials of independent journalists and allow them to continue reporting the facts about what is happening in Belarus to the world, ”said Lauren Easton, PA director of media relations. .

The Belarusian Association of Journalists said accreditation rights had also been withdrawn from 17 Belarusians working for several other media. German television broadcaster ARD said two of its Moscow-based journalists were also deported to Russia, a Belarusian producer faces trial on Monday and their accreditation to work in Belarus revoked. The BBC said two of its journalists working for the BBC’s Russian service in Minsk also had their credentials revoked and the US-funded Free Europe / Radio Liberty said five of its journalists lost their accreditation.

Criticism of the crackdown has come from both the media and governments.

WATCH | Belarusian President hosts photo shoot with machine guns amid massive protests:

As thousands took to the streets of Belarus to protest the recent elections, President Alexander Lukashenko flew over the crowd in a helicopter and came out with a machine gun. 2:04

The program director of ARD’s largest regional affiliate, WDR, which oversees coverage of Belarus, called his camera crew’s treatment “absolutely unacceptable”.

“This shows once again that independent reporting in Belarus continues to be hampered and is made almost impossible,” said Joerg Schoeneborn.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas summoned Belarusian Ambassador over detention and deportation of foreign journalists in Minsk and said “this attack on press freedom is another dangerous step towards more repression instead of a dialogue with the population ”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “has constantly called on journalists to be able to do their work without harassment anywhere in the world,” said UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

The International Press Institute stated that “Belarusian authorities must immediately drop all charges against journalists detained in recent police repressions, stop revoking accreditation of foreign journalists and immediately cease all interference with media houses. ‘public edition’.

US State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus urged the Belarusian government to exercise restraint, release those unjustly detained and account for missing protesters.

“We are concerned about the continued targeting of journalists, the blocking of independent media and opposition websites, the intermittent internet shutdowns and the random detentions of peaceful citizens exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression. », She declared.

Protests continue

Protests in Belarus began after the August 9 presidential election which officials said gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term with 80 percent support. Protesters claim the results were rigged and call on Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, to resign.

The protests, some of which drew huge crowds estimated at 200,000 or more, are the biggest and most sustained challenge of Lukashenko’s 26 years in office, during which he has consistently cracked down on the opposition and media outlets. independent information.

On Saturday, hundreds of women dressed mostly in red and white – the colors of the old Belarusian flag the opposition uses as their emblem – marched through the capital of Minsk in protest.

Hundreds of women dressed mostly in red and white – the colors of the old Belarusian flag that the opposition uses as their emblem – marched in Minsk on Saturday. (BelaPAN via Reuters)

The hard-line leader launched a strategy to end the wave of protests, without much success. In the early days of the protests, around 7,000 people were arrested. Some protesters were killed and many detainees were beaten by the police. The violence did not deter the protests and may even have galvanized the opposition. Strikes have broken out in several state-owned factories, which are the backbone of Belarus’ ailing economy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would be ready to send police officers to quell protests in neighboring Belarus if Lukashenko asks him to, a prospect that clearly worries the United States.

“We maintain our long-term commitment to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belarus, as well as the aspirations of the Belarusian people to choose their leaders and choose their own path, without outside intervention,” said Ortagus, the spokesperson. American word, said in the statement.

The U.S. Embassy in Belarus issued a statement on Saturday in which:



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