Journalists to be banned from covering protests in Belarus

Members of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus have adopted a bill banning journalists from covering protests in real-time.

It is about amendments to the law on mass actions. Minister of Internal Affairs Ivan Kubrakou said:

“The bill aims to ensure national security and protect public order.

Women’s Grand March of Solidarity. Minsk, Belarus. August 29, 2020. Photo: TK / Belsat

If the law is approved, all public events in the country will be held only with the local authorities’ permission. Local authorities will have to determine the place for the actions. However, it will be forbidden to “call for organization and holding” mass events on the Internet and in the media. The exact date, time and place of the gathering will not be specified in the rallies’ reports. Also, the country wants to prohibit the production and distribution of leaflets and posters of future rallies.

Once the law is adopted, journalists will not cover uncoordinated rallies in real-time, including online and streaming.

Ivan Kubrakou added that the media will be forbidden to perform “managing functions in the organization and conduct of mass events.” The official did not specify what this change means or how it will affect the fate of journalists working at protests.

Persecution of journalists

The Belarusian authorities escalated pressure on journalists and human rights defenders in August 2020. It was when protests broke out all over the country over the election results. The CEC stated that Alyaksandr Lukashenka won 80.1% of the votes. Opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya gained 10.1% of the votes. According to the results of independent exit polls, the results were the opposite.

After the announcement of the election results, mass protests began in the country. The violence of the security forces fueled them. Many of the more than 34,000 detainees were charged with administrative offenses. Some were charged with criminal offenses.

Independent journalists actively covered the protests. From the first days, they were detained and then tortured along with other protesters. The security forces also detained foreign correspondents. Their testimonies were published by many publications, including Meduza and La Monde.

Belarusian journalists were detained and brought to administrative responsibility. Law enforcement officers also came to editorial offices. Some publications, such as the largest news portal TUT.BY, were stripped of their media status.