Criticism of arrests of journalists in Belarus during anti-government protests

Minister for Foreign Affairs urged to lodge a formal protest with the Belarusian government

The arrest of journalists has coincided with a  wave of  protests over the Belarusian government’s imposition of a tax on citizens  who are not in full-time employment. Photograph: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko

The arrest of journalists has coincided with a wave of protests over the Belarusian government’s imposition of a tax on citizens who are not in full-time employment. Photograph: Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko

 

The National Union Journalists in Ireland has called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to intervene with the Belarusian government and to lodge a formal protest at the ongoing harassment of journalists in that country.

The NUJ has expressed concerns over the latest detention of three journalists, making a total of 31 detainees in the last three weeks.

The crackdown on the media in Belarus grew further on Thursday as journalists Kastus Zhukouski and Andrey Tolchyn were detained in Dobrush while a freelance reporter working for Belsat Viktar Yarashuk was detained in Pinsk.

They have all been released by the police after the verification of their documents, although Yarashuk was fined.

At least nine other journalists were detained across the country on March 18th.

The arrests coincide with a wave of nationwide protests over the Belarusian government’s imposition of a tax on citizens who have been unemployed for more than six months and who have not sought work at government job centres.

At a meeting in Dublin on Thursday, the Irish Executive Council of the NUJ expressed solidarity with the Belarus Association of Journalists (BAJ).

“A total of 33 journalists have been detained in the last three weeks. Ireland cannot stay silent in the face of this persecution,” said NUJ acting general secretary Seamus Dooley.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said holding a journalist liable for conscientious work was inadmissible.

“We draw attention to the fact that violating journalists’ rights is not only an unlawful restriction of freedom of information but also violates constitutional rights of all citizens to express their opinion, receive and distribute information,” said IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger.

“We monitor with our highest concerns the media crackdown taking place in Belarus and urge the authorities to stop harassing our colleagues and to drop all the charges against them as a matter of urgency,” he added.