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  • Situation in The Sphere of Mass Media in 2020 (OVERVIEW)


    No. 1 (63) 2021

    The Results of Belarus Mass Media Year 2020

    The year of 2020 appeared to be the most com­pli­cat­ed for the Belaru­sian media for the whole peri­od of con­duct­ed mon­i­tor­ing of sit­u­a­tion in the mass media field. The num­ber of attacks on jour­nal­ists, blog­gers, and mass media dra­mat­i­cal­ly increased. The Belaru­sian author­i­ties tried to coun­ter­act to the dis­sem­i­na­tion of infor­ma­tion about COVID-19 in the coun­try as well as about the polit­i­cal and legal crises, con­nect­ed with the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    Belarus appeared among those few Euro­pean coun­tries, where the lock­down in con­nec­tion with COVID-19 pan­dem­ic wasn’t announced at all. More­over, the offi­cials kept deny­ing the seri­ous­ness of this dis­ease for a long peri­od of time. Thus, the pres­i­dent Ali­ak­san­dr Lukashen­ka called the pan­dem­ic a ‘psy­chosis’ and an ‘info­dem­ic’. More­over, he called upon the Min­istry of Infor­ma­tion and the law-enforce­ment agen­cies to strug­gle with the ‘hype’ on the coro­na issue. The Min­istry of Health Care failed to pro­vide the jour­nal­ists and the soci­ety with up-to-date and truth­ful infor­ma­tion about the real sit­u­a­tion with COVID-19 in the coun­try.

    More infor­ma­tion about the influ­ence of COVID-19 pan­dem­ic on the activ­i­ty of Belaru­sian jour­nal­ists and mass media can be found under the link.

    The over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of attacks on jour­nal­ists and mass media in 2020 was con­nect­ed with their cov­er­age of pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in August 2020 and the fol­low­ing mass protest actions. In 95% of cas­es the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of gov­ern­men­tal author­i­ties (the law-enforce­ment agents, the offi­cials etc.) act­ed as aggres­sors dur­ing the mass protest actions. Arbi­trary deten­tions were the most wide-spread kind of vio­la­tions of jour­nal­ist rights in 2020. The Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists reg­is­tered 481 deten­tions with­in the year’s course that exceed­ed twice the num­ber of deten­tions in the pre­ced­ing 6 years, tak­en togeth­er. The pre­vi­ous ‘peak’ year took place after the elec­tion in 2011, when jour­nal­ists were detained 167 times. Near­ly the same num­ber of jour­nal­ists was arbi­trar­i­ly detained dur­ing August 2020 only. 160 jour­nal­ists were tak­en to cus­tody then.

    The arbi­trary deten­tions of jour­nal­ists were often accom­pa­nied with destruc­tion or seizure of pro­fes­sion­al tech­ni­cal equip­ment, dele­tion of record­ed mate­ri­als, and vio­lence.

    There were reg­is­tered three cas­es of appli­ca­tion of guns against female jour­nal­ists dur­ing their cov­er­age of protest actions in Min­sk. Con­se­quent­ly, all of them were wound­ed.

    Thus, a ‘Nasha Niva’ jour­nal­ist Natalia Lub­neuskaya was shot in her knee with a rub­ber bul­let by one of law-enforce­ment agents while report­ing the protest events on August 10, 2020. The aggres­sor stood in 10 meters from the group of jour­nal­ists in the ‘PRESS’ vests. The reporter had to spend more than a month in hos­pi­tal, while the wound­ed knee was cured.

    The num­ber of crim­i­nal cas­es, which were filed against jour­nal­ists and media spe­cial­ists, increased in 2020. 15 media rep­re­sen­ta­tives were pros­e­cut­ed on the alleged crim­i­nal charges with­in the year. Nine of them remained behind bars at the begin­ning of 2021. The largest pub­lic response was caused by crim­i­nal cas­es against ‘Bel­sat’ TV jour­nal­ists Kat­siary­na Andreye­va and Darya Chultso­va, who streamed from a mass protest action in Min­sk. They were charged with ‘arrange­ment of mass protest actions’. The sim­i­lar­ly broad response was caused by the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion against a TUT.BY jour­nal­ist Kat­siary­na Bary­se­vich alleged­ly ‘for divulging a med­ical secret’. The reporter dis­trib­uted the infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by a doc­tor that there was no alco­hol in the blood of the deceased pro­test­er, con­trary to the assur­ances of the offi­cial author­i­ties.

    Anoth­er crim­i­nal case was filed against the ‘Press-club’ media man­agers and jour­nal­ists as well as Kseniya Lut­ski­na, a for­mer reporter of Belaru­sian State TV and Radio Com­pa­ny, who coop­er­at­ed with them, at the end of the year. (Kseniya Lut­ski­na had resigned from the state-owned media out­let after the rigged pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.) The detained media man­agers and jour­nal­ists were pre­lim­i­nary charged with tax vio­la­tions.

    It is note­wor­thy that the offi­cial author­i­ties applied sys­tem­at­ic pres­sure with all kinds of repres­sive mea­sures in all media-relat­ed areas with­in the report­ing peri­od.

    Apart from the men­tioned above mea­sures, they were as fol­lows:

    - dis­abling of pub­lic access to the Inter­net in Belarus in the ear­ly days after the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and per­ma­nent restric­tions of the mobile Inter­net con­nec­tion dur­ing the mass protest actions;

    - restric­tion of access to the Web-sites that pro­vid­ed the unbi­ased cov­er­age of polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try;

    - depri­va­tion of the largest Belaru­sian Web-por­tal TUT.BY of its offi­cial mass media sta­tus;

    - pres­sure on pop­u­lar Telegram- and YouTube-chan­nels as well as local chats, includ­ing ini­ti­a­tion of crim­i­nal cas­es, pros­e­cu­tion of their admin­is­tra­tors, and pre­sen­ta­tion of their con­tent as ‘extrem­ist mate­ri­als’;

    - coun­ter­ac­tion to print­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion of sev­er­al non-state news­pa­pers that led to the sus­pen­sion of their pub­lish­ing;

    - refusals to pro­vide press cre­den­tials to the for­eign cor­re­spon­dents, who came to cov­er the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, revo­ca­tion of all press cre­den­tials, which were pre­vi­ous­ly issued to the for­eign cor­re­spon­dents in Belarus;

    - dis­missals and pros­e­cu­tion of state media jour­nal­ists, who opposed the dis­sem­i­na­tion of pro­pa­gan­dist fake news.

    More details about the pres­sure on mass media dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and after­wards can be found under the link



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