Statement: Concerns over media freedom violations in Belarus | Europe/Central Asia | DW | 05.02.2021
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Europe/Central Asia

Statement: Concerns over media freedom violations in Belarus

DW Akademie is deeply concerned about the recent violations of media freedom in Belarus against local as well as foreign journalists.

Yulia Yuliya Slutskaya vom Press Club Belarus

Yulia Slutskaya is founder of the media organization Press Club Belarus (PCB), and is one of the detained Belarusian media professionals DW Akademie works with

Several journalists and media organization DW Akademie cooperates with have been subjected to arrests and harassment over the past months. Among those who were intimidated and arrested are reporters from Germany’s international broadcaster DW.

These colleagues have been prevented from doing their work: websites blocked, refusals to print and revocations of accreditation have become commonplace for media organizations in Belarus. Independent journalists have been detained on the streets while reporting from rallies and are no longer protected even when they identify themselves as members of the press. There are also reports that members of the media are being targeted by security forces. There are reports of beatings, injuries, detentions, searches, arrests and prosecutions. Belarusian journalists are under unprecedented pressure and this repression has intensified after the presidential election on August 9. 

DW MA-Bild Carsten von Nahmen

Carsten von Nahmen, Managing Director of DW Akademie

Carsten von Nahmen, Managing Director of DW Akademie: “We urge the government of Belarus to immediately stop the harassment of journalists as well as media outlets and organizations. The people of Belarus need independent information to make free, educated decisions. Journalism is not a crime but a vital service for democratic societies.” 

It is critical that Belarus stop criminalizing journalism and release all detained media professionalsincluding Yulia Slutskaya (see photo above)the founder of media organization Press Club Belarus (PCB)her PCB colleagues Alla Sharko, Piotr Slutsky and Sergei Olshevsky as well as media manager and long-time DW Akademie trainer Andrei AliaksandrauAll of them have been labelled political prisoners by Belarusian human rights defenders. Given the additional health risks posed by detention during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the prosecution of such cases should be halted. 

According to the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), there were 477 detentions of journalists – including a DW correspondent. At least 62 journalists experienced violence from security forces in 2020 with journalists spending a total of 1,200 days behind bars. 

The government of Belarus has a duty to protect journalists and their right to safely do their work. Access to reliable news and information is crucial for the citizens of Belarus and for the country's democratic development.