Statement of the Belarusan Association of Journalists on the Occasion of the Freedom of Press Day

2005 2005-05-02T10:00:00+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Statement of the Belarusan Association of Journalists on the Occasion of the Freedom of Press Day

Being representatives of independent journalism, we join everybody, celebrating the Global Freedom of Press Day on 3 May.

We state that the problems, connected with ensuring the freedom of speech in our country remain unsolved.

As before, the authorities carry on treating the media as a propagandist machine. They demand complete obedience from the press, having imposed total control upon the information space and the journalists' activities.

There were closed down 25 printed media in Belarus last year. It was a grievous record of recent years.

The Hrodna region has become the territory of increased danger for independent media. The "Pahonia" newspaper journalists got imprisoned for different terms there in 2001. A successive persecution campaign, directed at independent journalists started in the Hrodna region in 2004.

In September 2004, there were imprisoned Hrodna entrepreneurs' movement leaders Valiery Lievanieuski and Aliaksandr Vasilieu for "offending the President of Belarus".
At the same time, there was initiated an administrative case against Aliena Raubietskaia, the "Birzha Informacii" newspaper's editor-in-chief for publishing a critical article, dwelling upon the referendum of 17 October 2004. As a result, A. Raubietskaia was fined 1,350 thousand Belarusian rubles. Consequently, the newspaper got suspended from publishing in November 2004. There were imposed administrative sanctions on the journalists, who dared take part in an unauthorized picket in solidarity with Aliena Raubietksaia.

In October 2004, the Vaukavysk-located "Mestnaya Gazeta" was suspended from publishing. Its founder and editor-in-chief Andrei Shantarovich announced a non-term protest hunger-strike. Later on, the Vaukavysk District Court considered the hunger-strike to be an unauthorized picket and resolved to fine A. Shantarovich 1,200,000 Belarusian rubles. In the same year, there was initiated a criminal case against Ramuald Ulan, the "Novaya Gazeta Smorgoni" newspaper publisher. Consequently, he was sentenced to a custodial restraint. The "Novaya Gazeta Smorgoni" publishing got terminated. In the same year of 2004, there was arrested and seized a circulation of the "Den" newspaper in the Iuie district of Hrodna region. Once again, the Hrodna region attracted attention of the Belarusian and international community in the spring 2005.

At the beginning of March, the "Pahonia" Web-site correspondent Andrei Pachobut got sentenced to a 10-day term of administrative arrest for reporting from an unauthorized entrepreneurs' meeting in the center of Hrodna. Several days afterwards, there was held a bi-election to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly in Hrodna. During the event, the polling stations' officials banned illegally the local and foreign journalists to be present at the polling stations. The legal violations were so evident that they got officially recognized by the supreme officials of the Central Electoral Committee of Belarus later on.
We confirm that this attitude of governmental authorities towards journalists is gradually becoming a norm in our country.

As before, there are normally issued groundless refusals to the people, wishing to found new media. The independent press publishers face acute problems with printing and distributing their periodical editions. Commonly, non-governmental journalists are not permitted to attend events, arranged by local authorities. Moreover, the governmental officials reject to provide information to independent press-men. The journalists are getting more and more frequently summoned to the police in connection with their professional activities.

In these conditions, the independent press keeps to the principles of journalist trade and remains the source of updated and comprehensive information for the Belarusian citizens on the events in Belarus and in the world.

We are calling on all conscientious people, backing the ideals of freedom and democracy, to support the independent press of Belarus.

Board of the Belarusian Association of Journalists

2 May 2005