Crackdown on non-state media in Belarus

Iryna Leushyna, chief editor of the non-governmental BelaPAN news agency, has been detained today, said. Her apartment has been searched and computer equipment seized.

Earlier, police detained several editors and journalists of independent media outlets and All of them are accused of illegal access to the paid services of the government-owned news agency BelTA (the accusation seems totally ridiculous provided the low quality of the content of BelTA and poor popularity of state media in Belarus). Tens of searches in offices of media and private houses of journalists occur. Many of detained were refused to see their advocates. Most of journalists were eventually released, including editors Hanna Kaltyhina and Halina Ulasik this afternoon. Maryna Zolatava, Hanna Yermachonak and Tatsiana Korovenkova were set free today at 11.00 am.

However, two journalists remain in custody.  It is expected that they will either be released or face formal charges.

The Belarusian authorities continue to be criticized for the unprecedented crackdown of independent media. The new wave of repression has been reportedly denounced by the EU’s External Action Service.

The country’s human rights organizations, including the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, sent an urgent appeal to David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, and Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, urging them to “react to the situation.”

Deutsche Welle lodged a protest with the Belarusian ambassador to Germany calling to release their reporter Pauliuk Bykouski, who is still in the detention center.

Many analysts link up the crackdown on independent media with a upcoming presidential elections in Belarus, which president, Alexandr Lukashenko, stays in power for 24 years already.

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