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  • Belarusian authorities invade homes of 2 exiled journalists

    The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists calls on Belaru­sian author­i­ties to stop harass­ing exiled jour­nal­ists and ensure the media can work freely, both abroad and at home.

    Барыс Гарэцкі CPJ сілавікі ўварваліся ў кватэру

    Screen­shot: Sec­ond Nation­al TV Chan­nel (NTC)/YouTube. Pho­to: BAJ

    On Thurs­day, May 16, offi­cers with the Belaru­sian State Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee, or KGB, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Min­istry of Tax­es and Duties sealed the apart­ment of exiled free­lance jour­nal­ist Zmitser Kaza­ke­vich after break­ing down the door in the north­east­ern city of Viteb­sk, accord­ing to media reports and Kaza­ke­vich, who spoke to CPJ and Radio Svabo­da, the Belaru­sian ser­vice of U.S. Con­gress-fund­ed broad­cast­er Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty.

    On Fri­day, law enforce­ment offi­cers in the cap­i­tal, Min­sk, searched the apart­ment of Barys Haret­s­ki, the deputy head of the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists (BAJ), in con­nec­tion to an unspec­i­fied crim­i­nal case, accord­ing to BAJ and Haret­s­ki, who spoke to CPJ. It is unclear whether offi­cers seized any­thing in the apart­ment, as Haret­s­ki left Belarus in 2021 and had no belong­ings there.

    BAJ is an exiled advo­ca­cy and trade group that doc­u­ments press free­dom vio­la­tions and pro­vides sup­port for Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists.

    “After sti­fling inde­pen­dent media inside the coun­try, the Belaru­sian author­i­ties will stop at noth­ing to put pres­sure on exiled jour­nal­ists like Zmitser Kaza­ke­vich and on those like Barys Haret­s­ki who defend repressed mem­bers of the press,” said Gul­noza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Cen­tral Asia pro­gram coor­di­na­tor. “Author­i­ties should imme­di­ate­ly reveal any charges filed against Haret­s­ki and Kaza­ke­vich and stop harass­ing inde­pen­dent media both inside and out­side the coun­try.”

    Kaza­ke­vich told Radio Svabo­da he did not know whether the apart­ment was searched and that law enforce­ment offi­cials asked his neigh­bors if any­one lived in the apart­ment a day before the raid. The jour­nal­ist told CPJ he did not know what charges he faced or when they were filed.

    “I con­sid­er the break-in and seal­ing of my house in Belarus as revenge. This is an invi­ta­tion to be exe­cut­ed, which I decline,” Kaza­ke­vich told CPJ.

    Author­i­ties pre­vi­ous­ly searched Kazakevich’s apart­ment three times between 2020 and 2021, he told CPJ, includ­ing in July 2021. Kaza­ke­vich, a free­lance jour­nal­ist who cov­ered the 2020 protests against the dis­put­ed reelec­tion of Alek­san­dr Lukashenko, has been fined and detained in con­nec­tion to his work and left Belarus in 2021, he told CPJ.

    Author­i­ties labeled BAJ as “extrem­ist” in Feb­ru­ary 2023. Belaru­sian author­i­ties have obstruct­ed BAJ’s workraid­ed its offices, and, in 2021, dis­solved the orga­ni­za­tion, prompt­ing its staff to leave the coun­try.

    “Search­es and crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against jour­nal­ists who have left the coun­try are aimed at intim­i­dat­ing media rep­re­sen­ta­tives in gen­er­al,” Haret­s­ki told CPJ. “Author­i­ties can­not influ­ence the inde­pen­dent media, which work from abroad, but they keep remind­ing them: we are watch­ing you, your every action, every con­tent is mon­i­tored. Thus, the author­i­ties force even jour­nal­ists who have left Belarus to be in fear, to feel per­se­cu­tion and atten­tion of the spe­cial ser­vices.”

    Belaru­sian author­i­ties recent­ly ini­ti­at­ed crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings against sev­er­al exiled jour­nal­ists, accord­ing to mul­ti­ple media reports and BAJ. CPJ is work­ing to deter­mine whether their pros­e­cu­tion is con­nect­ed to their jour­nal­ism.

    “Inde­pen­dent media still effec­tive­ly deliv­er their mate­ri­als to the audi­ence in Belarus,” Haret­s­ki said. “Undoubt­ed­ly, this caus­es anger of the author­i­ties, and they try to pres­sure peo­ple using the means avail­able to them.”

    CPJ emailed the Belaru­sian Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee, the KGB, and the Min­istry of Tax­es and Duties for com­ment but did not receive any response.

    Belarus was the world’s third worst jail­er of jour­nal­ists, with at least 28 jour­nal­ists behind bars on Decem­ber 1, 2023, when CPJ con­duct­ed its most recent prison cen­sus.

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