Nieuws Belarus

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Sinds 24 januari 2018 is de website van Charter97 niet meer bereikbaar vanuit Wit-Rusland (en delen van Rusland). Journalisten wordt het leven zuur gemaakt en zelfs met de dood bedreigd. Het aantal bezoekers is met meer dan de helft gedaald.  Natalja Radzina roept de bezoekers op Charter97 als onafhankelijk journalistiek medium financieel te steunen, ook omdat steun van andere (Europese) fondsen uitblijft.

Actie voor persvrijheid in Wit-Rusland in New York op 11 augustus 2018

Viasnu (mensenrechtenorganisatie Wit-Rusland) publiceerde een overzicht van de meest recente schendingen van de mensenrechten:

  • Belarusian prisons continued to hold two political prisoners: Mikhail Zhamchuzhny and Amnesty International’s prisoner of conscience Dzmitry Paliyenka. The presidential administration refused to pardon Zhamchuzhny, thus ignoring an appeal by representatives of the country’s human rights community;
  • on August 24, Henadz Fiadynich and Ihar Komlik, activists of the independent trade union REP, were convicted under Part 2, Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion on a large scale). The union leaders were sentenced to 4 years of restricted freedom without imprisonment, without confiscation of property, but with a prohibition to hold managerial positions for 5 years. Both national and international human rights and labor organizations called on the Belarusian authorities to reverse the sentence and to stop the pressure on independent trade unions;
  • on August 7, the Investigative Committee of Belarus said that it opened a criminal case under Part 2, Art. 349 of the Criminal Code (illegal access to computer information committed out of other personal interest, which caused substantial harm) against journalists and editors of a number of Internet resources. On the same day, police searched the journalists’ apartments and the newsrooms of the media outlets, including the leading information portal TUT.BY and the independent news agency BelaPAN. At least nine journalists were detained, seven of whom were placed in the detention center for three days as suspects. These clearly repressive and disproportionate actions of the authorities caused great public interest, including outside Belarus;
  • during the month, there were numerous facts of pressure on independent journalists and bloggers, cases of arrests and administrative detention of peaceful protestors;
  • thus, the month was marked by a significant deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus.

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Speciale rapporteur van OHCHR (VN Mensenrechten) Miklós Haraszti voor Belarus maakt zich grote zorgen over de persvrijheid in Wit-Rusland. Op de website van de OHCHR is op 10 augustus 2018 de volgende verklaring gepubliceerd.

A wave of raids and arbitrary arrests targeting independent publishers and journalists in Belarus highlights oppressive new rules against internet media in the country, says the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti.

“This action is aimed at obliterating the remnants of journalistic independence in Belarus, and follows oppressive new laws passed in June against independent internet media,” Haraszti said.

On 7 and 8 August, the authorities searched premises and blocked the operation of several independent media outlets, among them the online portal, and the only independent news agency in Belarus, BelaPAN.

At least 18 journalists were arrested, including the Editor-in-Chief, Maryna Zolatava, and journalists Ulyiana Babayed, Hanna Kaltyhina and Halina Ulasik. Belapan reporter Tatsyana Karavyanka was also detained. Employees of the media outlets were denied access to their offices.

The searches and arrests were prompted by an alleged violation of the Penal Code, which criminalises illegal access to computer information which may cause significant harm. The new rules introduce liability for not obtaining state licences for any web activities, and not identifying all users, including those on social media.

“What we are seeing is the sadly customary bogus criminalization of independent journalists. This may simply be a case of journalists occasionally using each other’s passwords to access the news service of the State-owned BelTA news agency.

“The allegation of ‘significant harm’ is disingenuous, given that BelTA is amply financed by taxpayers and not even a fraction of its revenues comes from subscriptions,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Haraszti expressed particular concern about the arrest of Ms. Karavyanka, who has regularly reported on the Special Rapporteur’s own findings, and has closely followed the concerns of UN human rights mechanisms regarding the situation in Belarus. 

“Silencing the last resources enabling Belarusians to learn about the UN’s human rights concerns is especially egregious given the Government’s claim of cooperation with the UN,” Haraszti said.

“It is also a blatant violation of the country’s obligation not to oppress its citizens for cooperating with the UN.

“In the sixth year of my mandate, the human rights situation in Belarus is actually getting worse. International vigilance must now be extended to the fate of those who keep the public informed,”  Haraszti concluded.

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