Supreme Court liquidates Belarusian Association of Journalists

Photo: ТК / Belsat

On August 27, the Supreme Court of Belarus ruled to liquidate the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). The independent media organisation which unites more than 1,300 media workers has been working since 1995.

The hearing on the liquidation was to have taken place on August 11, but it was postponed. On August 23, the association tried to appeal the warning by the Justice Ministry which accused the NGO of ‘repeated violations of the law’.

On August 10, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) submitted an amicus brief to the Belarusian Supreme Court challenging the justice ministry’s request for the disbanding of RSF’s local partner, the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). Arguing that BAJ’s dissolution would violate Belarus’s obligations with regard to the freedom of association, the protection of human rights defenders and the freedom of expression, RSF’s submission urged the Supreme Court to assume its role as guarantor of the international obligations of Belarus by rejecting the justice ministry’s application.

Crushing non-state media in Belarus 2.0

However, according to today’s decision of the Supreme Court, BAJ representative ‘misunderstood the law’, and all their arguments as to no legal grounds to sustain the liquidation claim should be considered unimportant.

“BAJ is not a simple entry in the register of legal entities. It’s almost 1500 members of the organisation, united by the awareness of their mission: to expand the space of freedom of speech in Belarus. Sorry for the pathos and a quote from the BAJ Strategy. These are friends and colleagues. It’s about us, not the legal status and office. And we will continue to do our work regardless of the decisions of courts and administrative bodies, by all legal means,” said BAJ chairman Andrey Bastunets.

On 9 June, the Ministry of Justice started a large-scale inspection of BAJ. In mid July, law enforcers conducted another search in the office of BAJ in the absence of representatives of the organisation, the office was then sealed and access to it was blocked. BAJ was not given copies of the search reports. Also that day, operations on the organisation’s bank account were frozen.

En masse: Police raiding offices of Belarusian human rights organisations, flats of activists, following