Belarus Cracks Down on Journalists, 2 AP Staff Deported

MOSCOW—Belarus, shaken by three weeks of massive protests against its authoritarian president, on Aug. 29 cracked down hard on the news media, deporting some foreign journalists reporting in the country and revoking the accreditation of many Belarusian journalists.

Two Moscow-based Associated Press journalists who were covering the recent protests in Belarus were deported to Russia on Aug. 29. In addition, the APs Belarusian journalists were told by the government that their press credentials had been revoked.

“The Associated Press decries in the strongest terms this blatant attack on press freedom in Belarus. AP calls on the Belarusian government to reinstate the credentials of independent journalists and allow them to continue reporting the facts of what is happening in Belarus to the world,” said Lauren Easton, the APs director of media relations.

The Belarusian Association of Journalists said accreditation rights were also taken away from 17 Belarusians working for several other media. Germanys ARD television said two of its Moscow-based journalists also were deported to Russia, a Belarusian producer faces trial on Aug. 31, and their accreditation to work in Belarus was revoked. The BBC said two of its journalists working for the BBC Russian service in Minsk also had their accreditation revoked and U.S.-funded radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty said five of its journalists lost their accreditation.

Criticism over the crackdown came from both media outlets and governments.

The program director for ARDs biggest regional affiliate, WDR, which oversees the coverage of Belarus, called the treatment of its camera team “absolutely unacceptable.”

“This shows once again that independent reporting in Belarus continues to be hindered and is made almost impossible,” Joerg Schoeneborn said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas summoned the Belarusian ambassador following the detention and expulsion of the foreign journalists in Minsk and said “this attack on press freedom is another dangerous step toward more repression instead of dialogue with the population.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “has consistently called for journalists to be able to do their work free from harassment, anywhere in the world,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

The International Press Institute said “authorities in Belarus must immediately drop all charges against journalists detained during recent police crackdowns, stop cancelling accreditation for foreign journalists and immediately halt interference with state-owned publishing houses.”

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus urged the government in Belarus to show restraint, to release those unjustly detained and to account for protesters reported missing.

“We are concerned by the continued targeting of journalists, the blocking of independent media and opposition websites, intermittent internet blackouts, and random detentions of peaceful citizens exercising their rights of freedom of assembly and speech,” she said.

Protests in Belarus began after the Aug. 9 presidential election that officials said gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office with 80 percent support. Protesters say the results were rigged and are calling for Lukashenko, who has run the country since 1994, to resign.

The protests, some of which drew enormous crowds estimated at 200,000 or more, are the largest and most sustained challenge yet to Lukashenkos 26 years in office, during which he consistently repressed opposition and independent news media.

On Aug. 30, tens of thousands of protesters streamed into central Minsk carrying balloons, flowers, and flags as Lukashenko turned 66.Read More – Source