The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) condemns the violence, arrests and prosecutions that have targeted journalists for RFE and other media outlets trying to cover peaceful protests in Belarus.
“Our colleagues tell us that the scale of this crackdown is unprecedented, exceeding the brutality we witnessed in Belarus following the flawed December elections. Journalists who are documenting and reporting on events are targets of the government’s repressive actions. They should know that we will do everything we can to support their right and their ability to practice as journalists,” said BBG Chairman Walter Isaacson.
The crackdown followed demonstrations on July 3 marking Belarus’s Independence Day during which hundreds of people, organized by the Internet-based opposition group Revolution Through the Social Network, took to the streets nationwide to clap their hands in peaceful protest against the government of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Three RFE reporters were detained and interrogated in conjunction with the July 3 protests. One of them is scheduled to stand trial on July 11, most likely on the spurious charges of “hooliganism” or “participating in an unsanctioned demonstration” that are now routinely used to fine and imprison journalists and activists.
At least 15 journalists were detained on July 3, according to Reporters Without Borders. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 28 journalists were detained while covering a subsequent protest on July 6. Persons caught filming, photographing or otherwise reporting on the protests described being snatched off the streets by plain-clothed police and forced into riot vehicles, and report being beaten and having their equipment deliberately broken and confiscated while in police custody.
While RFE’s Belarus Service was posting coverage of the July 3 protest to its website, it and all RFE websites were affected by a suspected distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. Belarus Service Director Alexander Lukashuk said, “We can’t say definitively who was responsible for the attack on our website, but this is the second time our site has been targeted while we were providing coverage of protests.” The website suffered a similar attack in 2008.
Adding to evidence of a concerted campaign against it, the Service reported today that its YouTube account had been cloned, after discovering that an identical page was posted with the broadcaster’s name and logo but containing corrupted information.
About RFE’s Belarus Service (Belarusian)
In a country that has been referred to as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” RFE’s Radio Svaboda is one of the leading news websites and one of the few media outlets accessible to Belarusians in their own language. Established in 1954, the station is on the air eight hours-a-day and, in partnership with Poland’s Belsat television company, produces a popular weekly half-hour television news and current affairs program.