Pressure against journalists in Belarus continues

Association

On 8th October 2018, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders reported that the Office for the economic crimes of the Oktyabrsky Department of Internal Affairs of Mogilev (ROVD) opened an investigation against human rights defender and journalist Ales Burakou for alleged “involvement in the activities of an unregistered organisation”. Burakou is the editor of the platform “Human rights in Mogilev” (the regional website of the Human Rights Center Viasna). A month later, Burakou was summoned to the ROVD for interrogation. He stated that an officer "warned him to stay away from human rights journalism and “to keep quiet”, otherwise he could face problems". 

In November 2003, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus deregistered the HRC “Viasna”, which led to a prohibition of its activities in Belarus. A year later, the UN Human Rights Committee recognised the Supreme Court decision as a violation of the right to freedom of association. 

Peaceful Assembly

On  31st October 2018, a court of the Leninsky district of Brest fined local blogger Sergei Petrukhin on charges of violating the order of organising an unauthorised rally. 

According to the media publication Tut.by, Sergei Petrukhin was accused of posting on the Internet a video about an upcoming unauthorised mass event in which people were invited to come to Lenin Square in Brest on 14th October to protest the construction of a battery factory in the area. Petrukhin denied the accusations.

A public campaign against the construction of the battery factory began in the region in January 2018 as residents believe the factory construction could be dangerous for the environment and the health of the residents. 

Expression

The pressure against journalists in Belarus continues. The Belarusian Viasna Center reported on 11th November 2018 that eight journalists working with the tut.by and belapan.by news agencies have been officially charged with “unauthorised accesses to computer information”. 

As reported previously on the CIVICUS Monitor, in August 2018, at least 18 journalists were arrested and charged under Article 349(2) of the Belarusian Criminal Code for allegedly accessing information belonging to the state news agency BelTA.

If found guilty, the journalists may face hefty fines or  imprisonment of up to two years.