Belarusian authorities seek to shut down Belarusian Association of Journalists

The Ministry of Justice of Belarus has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ). The motivation for bringing the lawsuit was the association’s failure to report on the correction of previously identified violations in time. BAJ said that the authorities’ demands were impossible to meet since the organization lost access to all its documentation following the search on 14 July 2021. The BAJ office was sealed off, while a written warning from the Ministry of Justice, as previously reported by the association, was sent with a delay.

“Everything is obvious. The Ministry of Justice is not even making an attempt to keep up appearances. It’s a total mopping-up operation, that’s what it is. But I keep saying: today the law does not protect us, today we protect the law. Therefore, despite the obvious gravity of the situation and, it would seem, its hopelessness, we will use legal means to protect BAJ and the law, including in court,” said Andrei Bastunets, the BAJ chairman.

Today, BAJ has over 1,200 members working in various print media, radio, television, and publishing companies. Some of the organization’s members are employees of state-run media. BAJ is an influential and respected organization recognized by the international professional media community.

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists, over the past few days security officials conducted 66 searches in the media offices and journalists’ homes. Pressure on the detained journalists continues unabated.

For instance, the court of the Partyzanski district of Minsk refused to release Belsat journalist Ihar Illiash.

Ina Studzinskaya, a Radio Liberty journalist who was detained on 16 July, is not allowed to see her lawyer. The journalist went on a hunger strike.

On the evening of 21 July, it became known that Yahor Martsinovich, editor-in-chief of the Nasha Niva newspaper, and his colleague Andrei Skurko, the head of the advertising and marketing department, had been transferred to the pre-trial detention center No. 1 on Valadarskaha Street on the order of the Investigative Committee. Martsinovich and Skurko have been in custody since 8 July. Skurko suffers from diabetes. His lawyer says that he has lost a lot of weight recently. Martsinovich was beaten during the arrest: an ambulance was called for him to the Investigative Committee, diagnosing him with a head injury.

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