Despite a decline in the overall level of repression in the country compared to the previous year, in 2018, there were no systemic changes in the area of civil and political rights, especially at the legislative level, aimed at the qualitative improvement of the human rights situation in Belarus, the human rights centre Viasna reports.
According to their analytical review Human Rights in Belarus-2018, there were numerous cases of persecution of bloggers and journalists of independent media in connection with the exercise of their professional activities: 36 journalists were convicted in 132 cases of administrative persecution resulting in fines for cooperation with foreign media (with a total of 113,092 Belarusian rubles). Changes in the Law on Mass Media, which entered into force, significantly restricted freedom of speech and imposed new restrictions on online publications.
Belsat TV contributors Kastus Zhukouski, Volha Czajczyc, Katsyaryna Andreyeva, Ales Lyauchuk and Andrey Tolchyn top the list of the journalists who were most heavily fined in 2018.
“Criminal proceedings against 14 defendants in the ‘BelTA case’ were terminated, and the defendants were prosecuted under administrative procedures. However, the criminal case under Part 2, Art. 425 of the Criminal Code (failure to act as an official) against chief editor of TUT.BY Maryna Zolatava was not closed. Henadz Fyadynich and Ihar Komlik were sentenced to 4 years of restraint of liberty without imprisonment without confiscation of property and the prohibition to hold managerial positions for the period of 5 years. The criminal case against Ales Lipai was closed in connection with his death,” the review says.
During the year, the authorities continued to use forced labor in forms that have become traditional for Belarus: isolation in the LTPs, ‘obliged persons’, involvement, by the orders of local executive committees, of employees of state-owned enterprises and students in harvesting agricultural products, participating in unpaid cleanups, etc.