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  • Freelancers of Nordic Countries Make a Statement to Support Colleagues in Belarus

    The annual conference Nordic Freelance 2018 has taken place in the Swedish town Malmö. The participants issued a statement of support for freelancers in Belarus, demanding to stop harassment of freelance journalists for their professional activities.

    Larysa Shchyrakova, Volha Siakhovich and Åsa Ohlsson, chairman of Frilans Syd. Photo by Hasse Hedström

    The year­ly con­fer­ence Nordic Free­lance drew free­lance jour­nal­ists from Swe­den, Den­mark, Fin­land, and Nor­way. The Belaru­sian Asso­ci­a­tion of Jour­nal­ists was invit­ed as a part­ner orga­ni­za­tion of the Swedish Frilans Syd.

    BAJ was rep­re­sent­ed by the lawyer Vol­ha Siakhovich and a free­lancer from Homel Larysa Shchyrako­va. They told about the sit­u­a­tion of free­lance jour­nal­ists in Belarus: the legal envi­ron­ment, respec­tive sta­tis­tics and per­son­al expe­ri­ence. Vol­ha Siakhovich quot­ed the World Press Free­dom Index of the Reporters with­out Bor­ders where Belarus took 155th place out of 180th in 2018 (where­as Nor­way takes 1st place and Swe­den takes the 2nd place there). After her sto­ry, a jour­nal­ist from the audi­ence shared her sur­prise that she “had known about author­i­tar­i­an states all over the world, but had not thought they could be that close”. And, where­as free­lance jour­nal­ists in Swe­den and Nor­way are con­cerned over the issues of jour­nal­ists’ salaries, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, atti­tude in soci­ety, Belarus free­lancers are dis­turbed by the very ques­tion whether they can work at all.

    Upon the con­fer­ence, the par­tic­i­pants issued a state­ment to sup­port their col­leagues in Belarus, demand­ing to stop harass­ment of free­lance jour­nal­ists for their pro­fes­sion­al activ­i­ties and to ensure nor­mal legal con­di­tions for their work.


    Inten­si­fied pros­e­cu­tion of free­lance jour­nal­ists in Belarus

    The pros­e­cu­tion of free­lance jour­nal­ists in Belarus is a threat both to free­dom of speech and to the free­lance jour­nal­ists’ per­son­al lives. Impos­ing fines on the jour­nal­ist who con­tribute to for­eign media vio­lates inter­na­tion­al stat­ues of press free­dom and the right to access to infor­ma­tion.

    In 2017, 69 fines were issued to free­lance jour­nal­ist and so far dur­ing this year 76 fines were issued. These fig­ures show that the sit­u­a­tion of Belaru­sian free­lance jour­nal­ists’ sit­u­a­tion has dete­ri­o­rat­ed in 2018. The legal pros­e­cu­tion of free­lance jour­nal­ists for their coop­er­a­tion with for­eign mass media with­out accred­i­ta­tion has sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased. The total sum of fines on arti­cle 22.9 part 2 of the Belarus Code of Admin­is­tra­tive Offens­es has exceed­ed EUR 25,000 in equiv­a­lent since the year start. There have tak­en place more than 76 tri­als on admin­is­tra­tive cas­es against free­lance jour­nal­ists since the begin­ning of 2018.

    We as free­lance jour­nal­ist in the Nordic coun­tries are very con­cerned with the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion for the rights of free­lance jour­nal­ists, in Belarus. We, the par­tic­i­pants of the Nordic Free­lance Sem­i­nar 2018, in Malmö, Swe­den calls upon the offi­cial author­i­ties of Belarus:

    - not to harass jour­nal­ists for doing their jour­nal­is­tic activ­i­ty

    - to stop imme­di­ate­ly the pros­e­cu­tion of free­lance jour­nal­ists for their pro­fes­sion­al work;

    - to amend Belaru­sian media law to guar­an­tee equal rights to all jour­nal­ists in accor­dance with inter­na­tion­al stan­dards and inter­na­tion­al oblig­a­tions of Belarus.

    Frilans Riks, the free­lance dis­trict with­in The Swedish Union of Jour­nal­ist (SJF)

    SFJ, Asso­ci­a­tion of Finnish Free­lance Jour­nal­ist in Fin­land

    FAO, Free­lance Chap­ter of Radio- and TV-jour­nal­ists Union in Fin­land

    NJ Frilans, with­in the Nor­we­gian Union of Jour­nal­ists

    Free­lance­Grup­pen with­in The Dan­ish Union of Jour­nal­ists    

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