On November 14, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum held an award ceremony in Brussels, where the Belarusian Association of Journalists was announced as this year’s prize winner.
Since 2018, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum has been giving awards to outstanding organizations in the region for their exceptional and dedicated efforts to consistently defend fundamental democratic principles.
The prize was received by BAJ chairman Andrei Bastunets.
“We live in this crazy world of wars and conflicts and it’s crucial that we remember journalists imprisoned in Belarus and the rest of political prisoners there. We must keep Belarus in the international spotlight,” he stated in his address.
Andrei Bastunets also noted that more than 1400 non-governmental organizations, such as BAJ, were shut down in Belarus over the last three years. However, the association persisted in its activities from abroad, despite being later declared an extremist formation. Even their informational channels, such as the website, social media accounts, and logo, were deemed extremist. Nonetheless, according to the BAJ chairman, the most challenging predicament is that 33 journalists remain incarcerated, with roughly 1,500 individuals being recognized as political prisoners.
“Civil society groups are committed to promoting democratic values despite challenges and opposition,” the award committee emphasized in their statement. “Your unwavering dedication to advancing free expression and independent journalism in Belarus is admirable.”
Valer Kavaleuski, Foreign Affairs Representative of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus commented on the award.
“Belarusian journalists have bravely worked in unsafe and oppressive situations and have been appropriately acknowledged and commended for their efforts”.