Call for international solidarity with Belarus

IMS is pushing for the international community to react, focusing on safety of journalists and access to reliable information

“It is high time to hold the Belarusian regime accountable for more than two decades of human rights abuses committed against the people of Belarus. Support to vibrant, courageous and perseverant independent media in Belarus has never been so important – both to put an end to a vicious cycle of repression and enhance citizen participation,” says Gulnara Akhundova, Head of the Global Response Department of IMS.

Safety of the Belarusian journalists and media workers is a priority. Against the backgrounds of some 450 documented cases of torture and ill-treatment of people deprived of their liberty (cases received by UN experts as of 1 Sep) and some 6,700 people detained, arbitrarily arrested and hastily sentenced – among them many journalists and media workers – IMS focus on protection and safety as well as monitoring and documenting press freedom violations.

“Even before the election, journalists and media workers were operating in a difficult working environment with harassment and government-imposed censorship. Belarusian media workers have experienced years of draconian laws introduced by the government to limit their reporting. Since the election, the situation has only been further aggravated,” Gulnara Akhundova points out.

Call for international solidarity

The European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution refusing to recognise Alexander Lukashenka as president of Belarus once his current term expires in November. Yet he was sworn-in as the President of Belarus in an inaugural ceremony on 23 September in the Palace of Independence in Minsk whilst visa ban and asset freezes against Belarusian officials responsible for human rights abuses are on the table in the EU.  

“Political pressure and sanctions against the dictatorial regime should go hand in hand with international support and solidarity with Belarusian media workers, human rights defenders and people who demand change,” comments Gulnara Akhundova.

Denmark, where IMS headquarters are located, was particularly quick to show robust response – not only calling on EU, UNESCO and its Nordic counterparts to take a principled stance but also by allocating rapid support to media workers in Belarus.

Continuous focus needed

As sophisticated tools from the dictator’s playbook further restrict independent media, the public in Belarus is increasingly hungry for reliable information. Tired of propaganda and lies, journalists have been quitting their jobs at Belarusian state-owned news companies in the hopes of joining independent media newsrooms to report the truth to the Belarusian people.

“In this situation, and perhaps as ever before, support to media workers in Belarus should double. It should focus on safety and protection, efforts to combat state propaganda and Kremlin-backed disinformation and – most importantly- boosting robust, professional media content to ensure that the citizens across Belarus have access to reliable information,” Gulnara Akhundova concludes.