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  • OSCE, Reporters Without Borders, EFJ, and other iNGOs react to declaring BAJ extremist formation

    On February 28, the Belarusian State Security Committee recognized the Belarusian Association of Journalists as an extremist formation. BAJ was the first Belarusian human rights organization to be “awarded” such a status. The international community is outraged by such a decision by the Belarusian authorities.

    The OSCE con­demned anoth­er attack on the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists.

    “It is deeply regret­ful that the Belaru­sian author­i­ties con­tin­ue to cre­ate a cli­mate of harass­ment and fear among and towards mem­bers of the media, delib­er­ate­ly tar­get­ing and sti­fling free and inde­pen­dent voic­es,” said OSCE Rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Free­dom of the Media, Tere­sa Ribeiro.

    “The deci­sion of the author­i­ties to des­ig­nate BAJ as an ‘extrem­ist for­ma­tion’ aims to fur­ther under­mine the organization’s impor­tant work of pro­tect­ing and advo­cat­ing for the rights of jour­nal­ists and is the lat­est man­i­fes­ta­tion of the clam­p­down by the author­i­ties on media free­dom in the coun­try.

    I have also not­ed with great con­cern the author­i­ties’ pre­vi­ous deci­sions to add Bela­PAN, Nasha Niva, Euro­ra­dio, and oth­er inde­pen­dent media, to the list of ‘extrem­ist for­ma­tions,’” Tere­sa Ribeiro added.


    The Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists called on the Belaru­sian author­i­ties to stop per­se­cut­ing the orga­ni­za­tions and allow them to work freely:

    “By label­ing the Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists as ‘extrem­ist,’ Belaru­sian author­i­ties are doing noth­ing but lash­ing out at an orga­ni­za­tion that has already been forced from the coun­try in retal­i­a­tion for its fight for jour­nal­ists’ rights,” said Gul­noza Said, CPJ Europe, and Cen­tral Asia pro­gram coor­di­na­tor, in New York.

    “Author­i­ties must stop obstruct­ing BAJ and the Brest­skaya Gaze­ta newspaper’s work and cease using extrem­ism leg­is­la­tion to silence inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism.”

    Reporters With­out Bor­ders, an inter­na­tion­al non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion, voiced its sup­port on Twit­ter.

    “Anoth­er dread­ful and absurd deci­sion in #Belarus: the KGB has declared BAJ an ‘extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion.’ RSF sup­ports its part­ner, tar­get­ed for its essen­tial work in col­lect­ing abus­es against jour­nal­ists despite its dis­so­lu­tion by the regime.”

    The Inter­na­tion­al Press Insti­tute (IPI) is out­raged by the Belaru­sian regime’s deci­sion. The insti­tu­tion con­sid­ers it a delib­er­ate attack on the media asso­ci­a­tion, forced to oper­ate in exile after the Supreme Court of Belarus liq­ui­dat­ed BAJ in August 2021.

    “Belaru­sian author­i­ties con­tin­ue their sys­tem­at­ic effort to silence all inde­pen­dent voic­es they do not already direct­ly con­trol”, said IPI Deputy Direc­tor Scott Grif­f­en.

    “Although the deci­sion to declare BAJ an ‘extrem­ist group’ is yet anoth­er in a long series of such attacks on media and civ­il soci­ety, the IPI glob­al net­work strong­ly con­demns this bla­tant act of repres­sion.”

    “IPI and our glob­al net­work stand behind BAJ and all inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists inside and out­side Belarus. The extrem­ists in this sit­u­a­tion are not BAJ, but the author­i­tar­i­an pres­i­dent and his secu­ri­ty ser­vices who arbi­trar­i­ly crim­i­nal­ize and per­se­cute jour­nal­ists,” Scott Grif­f­en added.

    The Euro­pean Fed­er­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists (EFJ) whole­heart­ed­ly sup­ports the asso­ci­a­tion and its mem­bers. It recalls that BAJ is a win­ner of the UNESCO World Press Free­dom Prize, so the deci­sion of the Belaru­sian author­i­ties can be con­sid­ered “an obvi­ous act of obstruc­tion to the free­dom of the press.”

    “This esca­la­tion of attacks on the media asso­ci­a­tion, adding up to its liq­ui­da­tion by the Supreme Court in August 2021, is one of many attacks on the media since the 2020 mass protests against Lukashenko’s deci­sion to run for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and fol­low­ing reelec­tion,” the EFJ adds and stress­es:

    BAJ, the only inde­pen­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive orga­ni­za­tion of jour­nal­ists and media work­ers in Belarus, has also become the first Belaru­sian human rights orga­ni­za­tion to be labeled as ‘extrem­ist’. It will con­tin­ue its activ­i­ties, still from exile, as the ongo­ing crack­down on civ­il soci­ety and the inde­pen­dent press con­tin­ues in the coun­try.

    The Belaru­sian dic­ta­tor and his hench­men will have to be held account­able for repeat­ed vio­la­tions of press free­dom and human rights,” said EFJ Gen­er­al Sec­re­tary Ricar­do Gutiér­rez.

    “We call on inter­gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions to increase pres­sure on the Lukashenko regime and to step up sup­port for Belaru­sian democ­rats in exile and in par­tic­u­lar for jour­nal­ists who con­tin­ue to inform the world about human rights vio­la­tions in Belarus,” he said.

    Arti­cle 19, an inter­na­tion­al human rights orga­ni­za­tion work­ing to pro­tect and pro­mote free­dom of speech and infor­ma­tion around the world, has expressed its sol­i­dar­i­ty with BAJ.

    “ARTICLE 19 strong­ly denounces this bla­tant attack on free speech and fun­da­men­tal rights. This unjus­ti­fied deci­sion presents severe reper­cus­sions – includ­ing crim­i­nal ones – for indi­vid­u­als affil­i­at­ed with the lead­ing press asso­ci­a­tion in the coun­try, and fur­ther quash­es civ­il soci­ety,” human rights activists stress.

    “Lukashenko has repeat­ed­ly shown that he has no inten­tion to allow a demo­c­ra­t­ic tran­si­tion in Belarus. He and his polit­i­cal camp will not stop at any­thing in their pur­suit to com­plete­ly dis­man­tle civ­il soci­ety and crush free­dom of expres­sion. As an inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, we have a duty to sup­port Belaru­sians and advo­cate for their fun­da­men­tal rights to be respect­ed,” says Joan­na Szy­mańs­ka, Senior Pro­gramme Offi­cer at ARTICLE 19.

    ARTICLE 19 “stands in sol­i­dar­i­ty with coura­geous mem­bers of the BAJ and salutes their tire­less work to defend free speech and qual­i­ty, reli­able jour­nal­ism.”

    Чытайце яшчэ:

    Журналісты і праваабаронцы — не экстрэмісты. БАЖ лічыць абсурдным наданне “экстрэмісцкага” статусу арганізацыі. ЗАЯВА

    Прызнанне БАЖ «экстрэмісцкім фармаваннем» мала што зменіць — палітолаг

    «Гэта акт запалохвання». БАЖ назвала чаканым статус «экстрэмісцкага фармавання»

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