Belarus cracks down journalists covering protests

Belarus cracks down journalists covering protests
Women demonstrate in Minsk against police brutality following recent anti-government protests. Source: Reuters
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Daily US Times: Belarusian authorities have withdrawn the accreditation of a number of international journalists who have been reporting on post-election protests there for foreign media outlets.

The BBC has confirmed two of their journalists from its Russian service are among those affected and in a statement, it condemned “in the strongest possible terms this stifling of independent journalism”.

Fresh demonstrations against the government broke out in the country on Saturday.

Belarus is gripped by widespread protests, sparked by an election widely believed to have been rigged in favour of the long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko.

Several thousand women – many in national dress – rallied in the capital, Minsk on Saturday, waving flags and flowers in what they called a “march of Solidarity”, urging Mr Lukashenko and the government to resign.

Riot police were out in force and arrested several protesters. Smaller rallies took place in other parts of the country, and come on the eve of what is expected to be another turbulent Sunday of post-election protests.

The BBC has urged the Belarusian authorities to allow access to its reporters.

It said in a statement: “We believe it is vital for the people of Belarus to have access to impartial, independent information about events in their country. BBC Russian, which reaches more than five million people a week, has been a major source of news for people in Belarus and Russia during the post-election unrest.”

Belarus government spokesman Anatoly Glaz told AFP news agency the action was taken following a recommendation from the country’s counter-terrorism unit.

Dominic Raab, UK Foreign Secretary, said he condemned the move and had raised his concerns with Belarusian officials.

Austria’s foreign ministry described the decision as a blatant attempt to suppress objective reporting.

On Saturday, at least 10 local and several Russian journalists lost their accreditation, with AFP, Deutsche Welle and Radio Liberty among the other outlets affected.

The announcement came days after multiple journalists were detained in Minsk ahead of a protest.

Unrest in Belarus was sparked earlier this month by an election that many people believe has been rigged in favour of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the leading opposition candidate, fled to Lithuania following the vote and has since called for protests.

Belarus has seen unprecedented opposition demonstrations and workers have staged walkouts at major state enterprises. Thousands have been arrested and there numerous reports of police brutality have been reported.

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