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  • BAJ demands to stop using anti-extremist legislation to restrict freedom of speech


    On 1 Novem­ber 2021, Belaru­sian KGB rec­og­nized the Bela­PAN news agency as an extrem­ist for­ma­tion, and on Novem­ber 3, the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of Belarus announced the same sta­tus of the Bel­sat TV chan­nel.

    Bela­PAN and Bel­sat are mass media.

    Recog­ni­tion of legal enti­ties as extrem­ist groups implies crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion under Art. 361 [1] of the Crim­i­nal Code of the Repub­lic of Belarus (cre­ation of an extrem­ist for­ma­tion or par­tic­i­pa­tion in it) not only for jour­nal­ists and heads of these edi­to­r­i­al offices, but also read­ers, sub­scribers, and fol­low­ers of these mass media. This is pun­ish­able by impris­on­ment for up to sev­en or up to ten years.

    These deci­sions of the KGB and the Inte­ri­or Min­istry con­tra­dict the norms of both inter­na­tion­al law the crim­i­nal law of Belarus.

    In their legal nature, these actions of law enforce­ment agen­cies make it pos­si­ble to pros­e­cute indi­vid­u­als with­out estab­lish­ing their guilt, which con­tra­dicts Sec­tion 4 of the Crim­i­nal Code of the Repub­lic of Belarus.

    The norms of inter­na­tion­al law stip­u­late that the lim­i­ta­tion of free­dom of expres­sion is allowed only when nec­es­sary for respect of the rights or rep­u­ta­tions of oth­ers, for the pro­tec­tion of nation­al secu­ri­ty, pub­lic order, or pub­lic health or morals (Arti­cle 19(3) of the ICCPR).

    Thus, the men­tioned deci­sions of the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs and the KGB on rec­og­niz­ing media out­lets as extrem­ist for­ma­tions are ille­git­i­mate in their legal nature.

    Giv­en the above, the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists DEMANDS:

    - To stop the prac­tice of using anti-extrem­ism leg­is­la­tion to ille­gal­ly restrict free­dom of speech.

    - To can­cel the deci­sions of the KGB of 1 Novem­ber 2021 and the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs of 3 Novem­ber 2021 on rec­og­niz­ing the Bela­PAN news agency and Bel­sat TV chan­nel as extrem­ist for­ma­tions.

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