In 2018, civil society activists, lawyers, rights groups, and independent media continued to face government harassment and pressure, the Human Rights Watch says in its World Report-2019.
“Authorities intensified the prosecution of freelance journalists for cooperating with unregistered foreign media, bringing 33 cases against 17 journalists from September through December 2017, and 85 cases against 31 journalists from January through September 2018, an increase over the same period in 2017. All resulted in fines ranging from 490 to 1,225 Belarusian rubles (US$230 to US$575),” the report reads.
The human right defenders mentioned the police’s beating of Belsat TV cameraman Andrus Kozel, the search of the flat of blogger NEXTA’s parents, the arrest of journalist Dzmitry Halko, blocking Charter’97 and Belarusian Partisan websites and other cases.
“In August, authorities launched a criminal probe against several publications for allegedly using passwords for the state news agency, BelTA, without authorization in order to access it for free. The disproportionate response raised concerns that the government was using the issue to punish news outlets. Police searched the offices of BelaPAN and TUT.by, an independent news website, as well as the editorial offices of several other media outlets (including some state-owned) and the homes of several journalists. At least 18 journalists were arrested on charges of “unauthorized access to computer information causing significant harm.” All were released by August 10; criminal proceedings against them continued at time of writing,” human rights defenders commented on August’s wave of arrests of Belarusian journalists.
According to the HRW, last year’s amendments to the Law on Mass Media introduced additional, excessive restrictions requiring that all online media outlets keep public records of the names of people who submit comments online and disclose that information to authorities.
Belsat.eu, following HRW