Belarus: dozen of journalists detained and beaten

In a new crackdown against the independent press, Belarusian police briefly detained and beat more than a dozen reporters, and broke their equipment at June 29 protest rally in Minsk and Brest, according to news reports and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sources in Belarus.

In connection with the worsening economical situation in the country, Belarusians show their protest against state’s authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenko each Wednesday in a silent way, because everyone understands everything without words.

Each Wednesday hundreds of citizens are detained and beaten in many Belarusian cities in a very sophisticated way – by grasping people from streets (see video here and here). Local and foreign journalists are among them despite their media cards.

13 journalists detained
According to the Minsk-based Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), among the reporters and photojournalists detained and beaten by police and possible security agents in plainclothes in Minsk were:

 – Oleg Boldyrev and Maksim Lomakin (BBC Russian service);
 – Pavel Potashnikov (Russian news agency Interfax-Zapad);
 – Yekaterina Borisevich, Yelena Tolkocheva, and Sergey Gapon (Minsk-based newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belorussii);
 – Vadim Zamirovsky (news website Belgazeta);
 – Kseniya Avimova, Vasily Semashko (below), and Vadim Shmygov (Belarusian news agency BelaPAN);
 – Ales Piletsky (independent Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva);
 – Ugis Libiyetis, Latvian journalist (top right corner);
 – Vladimir Gridin (above), an independent photojournalist.

In Brest, police detained journalists Ales Levchuk and Milana Khorotova, BAJ reported. Police released all of the detained reporters the same day.

Men in plainclothes also broke cameras belonging to Gridin and Reuters TV cameraman Vladimir Kostin, according to BAJ and the independent news website Charter 97.

“It seems that every time journalists pull out a camera on a street in Belarus they are set upon by police,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “This thuggish attempt at censoring coverage of social and political protests must stop.”

150 people detained in Minsk
At least 150 people were detained at June 29 protest rally in Minsk, the independent Moscow-based news website Gazeta reported. According to Nasha Niva, 240 people detained all over Belarus, 65 of them in Brest.

Since late May, opposition activists have been holding a rally called “Revolution via social networks” every Wednesday in Minsk and in many other cities across Belarus.

Up to 1,000 participants protesting the authoritarian policies and repression of President Aleksandr Lukashenko marched in Minsk, Grodno, Brest and other cities, clapping their hands every two or three minutes instead of shouting political slogans to avoid charges of participating in a protest rally.

At the June 22 rally, police detained at least 450 protesters including several journalists, the BAJ and the BBC reported.

Following the June 22 detentions, the BAJ called on Interior Minister Anatoly Kuleshov to “investigate all facts of the journalists’ rights violation, identify those responsible for the abuse, and apologize to journalists.”

Journalists without rights?
Belarusian laws grant journalists the right to attend “socially important” mass gatherings and report on them, BAJ said in a public letter to Kuleshov.

Authorities have been relentlessly suppressing opposition protests and retaliating against the journalists who cover them since March 2006, when officials manipulated the results of the presidential vote, CPJ research shows.

In the most recent crackdown that started in late December, Belarusian police and security services intimidated, arrested, imprisoned more than 20 independent journalists, and confiscated reporting equipment, in retaliation for their reporting on the protests against the flawed presidential elections held that month. 

Related articles:

Belarusian authorities attack the social media

Media as a scapegoat for economic crisis in Belarus

Belarus: protesters tried, journalists beaten, rights defenders expelled

Ministry of Information vs independent press in Belarus

Letters of concern:

Concerns with alarming human rights situation in Belarus 

Ongoing human rights violations in the aftermath of the elections in December 2010

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