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Mass crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists in Belarus

Since August 2020 over 540 journalists have been repressed by officials

The government started a massive crackdown on human rights defenders, activists and journalists across Belarus on February 16, 2021. At least 40 people, including staff of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) and Human Rights Center “Viasna”, were detained or targeted during police attacks.

BAJ has been keeping track of the journalists whereabouts and doing its best to help those targeted since the beginning of unrest in August 2020. The organization has been one of few sources able to provide structured and reliable data on the media situation in Belarus to the international community. Since last summer 540 journalists have been repressed by officials in Belarus.

Police and security service raids took place in several cities on Feb. 16, including Mahilioŭ, Brest, Vitebsk, Homieĺ, Mazyr, Rečyca, Baranavičy and others. 

More from The Fix: Three months of tragedy: An overview of the Belarusian media landscape

Police officers searched the offices of (BAJ), Human Rights Center “Viasna”, and the central office of the independent trade union REP. Security workers also raided homes of at least 40 people. They seized devices, documents, money, phones, credit cards and flash drives. 

BAJ leader Andrei Bastunets, Viasna activist Dzmitry Salauyou, and volunteer Ekaterina Bozhko were detained. Many human rights defenders have been out of reach since after the police raids, their whereabouts unknown. 

Viasna made the full list of people who were repressed. Journalists periodically update the information. 

Belarusian human rights defenders link the attacks to a recently opened criminal case for “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order or active participation in them”.

More from The Fix: Poland, Hungary, Belarus attacks on media freedom

Photo by Andrew Keymaster on Unsplash

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