Belarusian Supreme Court Liquidates Country’s Largest Independent Pro-Journalism Organisation
On 27 August 2021, the Belarusian Supreme Court moved to liquidate the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ), one of the country’s few remaining civil society organisations that promote freedom of expression and represent media workers. Civil Rights Defenders condemns the authorities’ decision, as the liquidation further plunges the already battered Belarusian civil society into isolation.
The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) is one of Belarus’ most prominent civil society organisations, promoting freedom of speech, freedom of information, and professional standards of journalism. The organisation has played a vital role in documenting repressions against journalists in Belarus, especially during the large-scale protests that have rippled through the country since the contested presidential elections in August 2020. Together with Reporters Without Borders, they collected data that showed that Belarus was Europe’s most dangerous country for journalists in 2020.
The organisation itself has also been repeatedly targeted by President Alexander Lukashenka’s regime. In July 2020, the BAJ was one of several organisations that suffered from a series of coordinated raids from Belarusian police. The BAJ’s central office in Minsk denied the police access to their documents, which prompted the Belarusian Justice Ministry to initiate the liquidation proceedings.
Since the 2020 elections, President Alexander Lukashenka’s regime has used increasingly oppressive tactics to stifle political opposition and silence independent media. Today, at least 185 organisations are or will be liquidated, including the Belarusian PEN Centre, the Office for the Rights of Disabled People, the National Youth Club, and the Belarus Press Club.
Civil Rights Defenders condemns the authorities’ decision to liquidate BAJ, a legitimate organisation that has made profound strides for the journalistic practice during the last 25 years. Despite facing harsh repressions from the regime, they have continued their work to support journalists and media workers with great expertise. We strongly urge Sweden and the international community to act against the regime’s atrocities.
“The liquidation of the Belarusian Association of Journalists further throws the state of civil society in Belarus into an unclear and dire future. The international community must react against the actions of Lukashenka’s regime, as the daily repressions and human rights violations remain unabated. Lukashenka is attempting to completely dismantle all forms of civil society in Belarus. The time to act is now”, says Gabrielle Gunneberg, Global Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.