Belarusian Authorities Raid Homes And Offices Of Journalists And Activists
A policeman leaves the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) office after a raiding in Minsk, on February 16, 2021. - Police in Belarus raided the homes and offices of 25 journalists, rights defenders and trade union members on Tuesday, investigators and activists said, as part of a probe into mass protests. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

The European country of Belarus has had the attention of the international community in recent months after its tumultuous and allegedly fraudulent presidential election last year. On Tuesday, Belarusian authorities reportedly raided the offices and homes of journalists and human rights activists. This is the latest action taken to put down protests against authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The Associated Press reported:

Police searched the offices of the Belarusian Association of Journalists and the Viasna human rights center as well as the apartments of its members, confiscating their equipment. More than 30 people were briefly detained, and at least three remained in police custody, according to activists.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Dunja Mijatovic, spoke out against the actions on Twitter, calling them “unacceptable. Freedoms of expression, association & assembly shld be ensured…”

The Belarusian Association of Journalists had its members targeted, as well. Its leader, Andrei Bastunets, was one of the people detained and then released. The association’s Vice President, Boris Goretsky, had his home searched. He responded to the events, saying, “This is the largest crackdown ever on journalists and rights activists Europe has ever seen…There have been more than 400 detentions of journalists over the last six months, and the authorities aren’t going to stop at that.” At least 10 journalists reportedly face criminal charges and are still in custody.

Authorities also raided the top office of The Viasna Human Rights Center in Minsk, Belarus, which has been involved in spreading awareness about the protests since last year.
In December, CBS News reported:
According to the Minsk-based Viasna Human Rights Center, more than 30,000 people have been detained since the protests first broke out in August, and thousands of them have been brutally beaten in custody. At least four people have purportedly died
On Tuesday, authorities searched the apartments of several activists who work with the human rights center. Viasna’s deputy head Valiantsin Stefanovic, said, “This is an attempt to intimidate journalists and human rights activists who have been telling the world about the unbelievable scale of repressions.”
Anti-government protesting began in Belarus last year after the August presidential election declared Lukashenko the winner in a landslide. The opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and her supporters have said the election was rigged, and some poll workers have also reportedly claimed that there was manipulation of votes.
Tsikhanouskaya called the situation on Tuesday a “new wave of repressions,” describing “Lukashenka’s thugs” conducting the raids. She added, “This is total lawlessness and crisis of human rights in Belarus.”

The raids have been widely condemned by organizations around the world, including Amnesty International.
Aisha Jung, the group’s Senior Campaigner on Belarus, said in a statement: “Having imprisoned or forcibly exiled almost anyone associated with the political opposition in the country, the Belarusian authorities have now set their sights on human rights defenders and journalists whose only crime has been to document the wave of gross human rights violations committed by security forces following last August’s contested presidential election….To support the people of Belarus the international community must continue to do all possible to stand for human rights and counter the authorities’ tightening stranglehold over Belarusian civil society.”

Last year, the United States introduced sanctions against “individuals and entities who are responsible for, or have participated in, actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Belarus,” according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

On Tuesday, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also spoke out against the actions and demanded that the officials stop the oppression of journalists.

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