On 27 August 2021, the Belarus Supreme Court ordered the liquidation of the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). This was a politically motivated action taken by a judicial system that has been consistently criticized by the international community for a lack of independence.
BAJ is a Belarusian professional association of journalists. It aims to protect freedom of speech and freedom of information and promote the professional standards of journalism. It is the only true independent association of journalists in the country. BAJ was formed in 1995, when 37 journalists united to resist the clampdown on the freedom of expression. Since then, BAJ has been a national champion for independent media, serving journalists and media, fighting for their rights and freedoms, holding solidarity campaigns, and providing legal advice and support.
In February 2021, the authorities raided BAJ’s central office. In June the Ministry of Justice launched a major audit of its activities requesting the organisation to provide thousands of administrative and financial documents. The pressure further increased in July when the authorities once again raided and sealed BAJ’s office, and then submitted a claim for liquidation to the Supreme Court.
Belarus recently celebrated 30 years of independence. Yet, throughout that entire time, the Belarusian authorities have consistently attacked and repressed independent media and journalists. The situation has continued to deteriorate following the 9 August 2020 presidential election. It remains clear that the Belarusian authorities are methodically working to eliminate any and all dissenting voices in the country.
The liquidation of BAJ is yet another grim milestone for free media in Belarus. However, we know that the Belarusian authorities will ultimately be unsuccessful at stifling the freedom for which Belarusian citizens have so resoundingly called since last summer.