‘False thaw’: Belarus ranked 153rd in World Press Freedom Index

In the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Belarus remained 153rd of 180 countries.

Having taken brutal detentions of journalists and protesterd in February-March, Reporters Without Borders entitled the article about Belarus ‘False Thaw’.

“In a bid to loosen Russia’s sway over Belarus and emerge from an economic crisis, President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime has been trying to ingratiate itself with the international community and erase its image as ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’. However, aside from the release of leading political prisoners, nothing has changed. Freelance journalists working for independent media outlets based abroad cannot get accreditation and are harassed by the judicial authorities. Fearing destabilization linked to the Ukrainian crisis, the authorities have jailed both pro-Russian and anti-Russian bloggers. Very few journalists were arrested or subjected to violence in 2016. But the lull ended in March 2017, when an unprecedented wave of protests led to a major crackdown,” they say.

According to the Index, the level of freedom available to journalists in Belarus can be compared to that of Ethiopia, Singapore, Swazilend (nr 150-152), Turkey, Brunei and the Democratic Republic of Сongo (154-156).

Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states.

Although Belsat TV is located in Poland, many journalists and contributors work in Belarus. As the Belarusian Foreign Ministery has repeatedly denied registration to the TV station for political reasons, its contributors are at the authorities’ gunpoint for working without it.

In February-March, there has been an eruption of protesting the so-called ‘parasite’ law in Belarus. Hundreds of Belarusians were detained, fined, jailed after recent non-parasite marches. Most of them were accused of violating the order of holding mass events and disobedience to police officers’ demands. It should be noted that plainclothes policemen who refuse to show their IDs a or introduce themselves often beat people and prevented journalists from performing their professional duties.

belsat.eu, following rsf.org