“The State Does Not Recognise My Rights as a Journalist”

Independent voices from Belarus:
Close-up with Olga Chaychits, journalist at Belsat

Working as an independent journalist in Belarus means working under constant pressure. This however does not stop Olga Chaychits, who sees her career as a journalist not so much as work, but rather as a mission. Civil Rights Defenders recently met with Olga to learn more about the challenges she faces in her every day work. This is her personal experience of what it is like to work as a journalist in today’s Belarus: 

Lack of rights for Journalists

“For me personally, the main problem being an independent journalist in Belarus is that the state does not recognise the rights I have working in this profession. According to existing legislation, one can only be a journalist if one has an agreement with a registered media or accredited foreign media. Since Belsat – where I work – does not have any accreditation, I do not have any rights as a journalist in Belarus. This means that I cannot attend official events, government representatives refuse to let me interview them, and I am constantly restricted when it comes to accessing information which means that I am prevented from producing my stories.” 

The need for protection

“Being an independent journalist in today’s Belarus means that you are subjected to constant pressure. Arrests, wiretapping and physical persecution are common and happen frequently. For example, I have on several occasions been threatened with travel restrictions just before I have been about to leave for important trips. There are also often police officers looking for me in my parents’ neighborhood, asking people if they know where I live. This is quite strange as this information is public and that I am not at all hiding. Still, for me to be able to work safely, the laws need to change so that they protect the rights of journalists.”  

Not giving up hope

“I take work not just as work, but as a mission. I really want to contribute to change in Belarus and I believe that my work is part of doing so. It makes me proud to know that there is at least a chance that my work will promote change in the Belarusian society. This is the exact opposite of what the government in this country wants and I believe that is why they are trying their best to restrict our rights. But despite this, I still have hope for journalism.” 

Read the rest of the series “Independent Voices from Belarus” here:

Pavlyuk Bykovski, “The Persecution of Journalist in Belarus Needs to Stop.”

Katerina Bakhvalova“I Will Continue to Work, No Matter What.”

Pavel Slepuhin, “I Have a Desire to Make the World Around Me a Better Place.”

Tatyana Korovenkova, “The Authoritarian Regime Will Never Allow the Media to Work Freely.”

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