Threats to Journalists: Belarus
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- In July 2011, RFE/RFL Belarus Service correspondent Mikhal Karnievich was detained while reporting on a protest in Hrodna. The testimony against him was provided by a policeman that Karnievich had never even seen before. Karnievich was found guilty and fined the equivalent of about $200. . Halina Abakunchyk, another Belarus Service correspondent covering the same protests, had her camera taken by police. Click here for the press release.
- In June 2011, RFE Belarus Service video journalist Aleh Hruzdzilovich was detained by police in Minsk for several hours while covering a protest organized through social networks. He was dragged by his arms and legs into a police van, where authorities took his camera and broke his microphone.
- On July 12, 2010 Minsk bureau Chief Valentin Zhdanko was stopped at the Belarus-Lithuanian border after a routine crossing and questioned and searched. Several days later, he received a call from a KGB agent requesting an “unofficial” meeting. The meeting took place on July 20, during which Zhdanko was questioned for 2.5 hours about the bureau’s operations, payment and accreditation.
- On June 29, 2010 two RFE Minsk Bureau correspondents received official warnings from the General Prosecutor accusing them of reporting without accreditation in violation of Belarusian law. The warnings highlighted the Belarusian government’s use of accreditation to coerce our correspondents and other independent journalists. One of the correspondents resigned two weeks later on July 14.
- In early June 2010, Natalya Shalayava, a newly hired Minsk-based Belarus Service correspondent, received repeated threats to her family by telephone from security agents. She resigned from the service on June 18.
- Zmicer Halko, a popular blogger not accredited to RFE who reports on Opposition events for the Belarus Service’s svaboda.org website, was severely beaten by five men near a Minsk railway station on November 29, 2009 in an attack that left him with a concussion and a broken rib. Halko told RFE/RL that he did not recognize his attackers, who also robbed him of 150,000 rubles (approx. US$50) and is unable to judge whether or not the attack was a response to his professional activities. In addition, three other unaccredited Belarus Service correspondents were beaten or detained in connection with their work in separate incidents in July and October; one other suffered vandalism.
- RFE/RL correspondents for the Belarusian Service routinely cope with short-term detentions, house-searches and harassment from the authorities; for example, members of the state security agency interrogated 2 correspondents, searched their apartments and seized cameras and other equipment two days after RFE/RL covered a March 2008 rally marking the nation’s 90th anniversary of a declaration of independence from Russia.
- Guests on Belarusian Service programs are subjected to physical abuse by police. Zmitser Fedaruk, a 19-year old leader of Belarus’ Malady (Young) Front, was viciously beaten by police in Minsk on December 12, 2007, just days after returning from a trip to the U.S. where he participated in a Belarus Service roundtable discussion with other opposition leaders at RFE/RL’s Washington office.
- Minsk tax police inspectors raided RFE/RL’s Minsk Bureau in early October 2007, then launched a two-month audit of all employees of the bureau.
- RFE/RL correspondent Sevyaryn Kvyatkouski was taken into police custody on September 4, 2007 while covering the trial of an opposition youth activist in Salihorsk. Kvyatkouski was searched and interrogated before being released without charge later that day.
- Police detained RFE/RL correspondent Halina Abakunchyk during reporting assignments twice — in July 2007 in Babruysk and again in September 2007 in Minsk.
- In April 2007, a listener to Belarus Service programs in the town of Smarhon was arrested by the Belarusian KGB for the “crime” of distributing homemade lists of Belarus Service shortwave frequencies and broadcast times.